Gareth Pugh’s warrior women
Lights shone through the boarded-up windows of the grand Hotel Solomon de Rothschild, casting eerie shadows across the smoke-filled rooms. It seemed entirely appropriate that Cher was there, this being Gareth Pugh - coolest of the cool – with a collection dedicated to warrior women.
A model emerged in white, from her ear lobes to the floor, she wore a funnel-necked dress with a print of fine, wispy branches climbing up her skirt. Four more pure white outfits followed – all long, cloak-like, growing ever more exaggerated in volume. There was something Victorian, yet strangely modern, about these long ghostly silhouettes that turned to black then charcoal, then blue. Every figure wore a floor-sweeping skirt. The rest of the body was hidden beneath these sculptural forms with high necks and leather sleeves, so that only faces – also partially hidden beneath swathes of hair – or grey talon fingernails, were on show.
All the better to see the precise cutting of those coats and jackets – some sculpted in ribbed leather or tough army-blanket wool, others soft in fragile papery blacks, the finest shearling or ribbed strips of glossy mink. It all looked incredibly luxurious, almost museum or gallery-worthy in that they didn’t really need a body inside them to stand up on their own. Some seemed so precious you could imagine them being marvelled at from behind ‘don’t touch’ glass. Until finally, bin bags – that is, the cheapest variety of black bin bags – had been chopped like topiary, first as a frothy hem on a coat, then an entire coat, then mountainous ball gowns and matching cube hat.
‘We searched far and wide for the right bin bags, they had to be like tissue paper,’ he said of his topiary-tastic clothing sculptures, some of which were so tightly packed, they resembled a wedding bouquet.
Pugh said he had been inspired by a little-known, women-only tribe living in the Carpathian Mountains in the Ukraine, known as the ‘Asgarda’. ‘They seem to be emerging from some kind of danger and spend their time training in martial arts,’ he said. ‘I just like the way they wear these huge long gypsy skirts with sportswear.’
No sportswear here, exactly, but this was a powerful show with powerful, supreme-being clothes. Perhaps not the type of thing you’d see walking down Dalston high street, Pugh’s old stomping ground, but armed with the kind of anarchy only a British designer could serve up in Paris.