THE LAST SHOW
'Everyone is dying to find another way to show clothes'
Gareth Pugh Is About to Disrupt New York Fashion Week
The questions of whether traditional fashion shows have any validity anymore, and whether they are actually entertainment and we should just embrace the change, are about to enter the conversation again.
Gareth Pugh, the upstart English designer championed by Rick Owens, has shown his regal-’n’-rough, razor-tailored/alien romance creations (this sounds weird, but they are actually often both smart and beautiful) during Paris Fashion Week for the last six years. Now he is switching sides and cities, and this season he will hold what he describes as an “immersive live performance” to open the New York shows.
Gareth Pugh, at the conclusion of his fall 2014 show in February, during Paris Fashion Week.Credit Patrick Kovarik/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“There’s a point at which old archetypes need to change,” Mr. Pugh, 32, said in a phone call. “Fashion is very stuck in its ways, and I wanted to present something that would make people think, and maybe move the needle a bit.”
What Mr. Pugh is planning to do to “make people think” involves both video and live dancers, though not his entire spring 2015 collection.
“I know this is a business, and we need to sell clothes, but it is also about image and inspiration, and sometimes a live show can miss the mark a bit,” Mr. Pugh said. “The lights go up, the model walks out, and you lose control of it. It’s really important to not only communicate, ‘This is a nice dress’ or ‘This is a cool trouser,’ but to sell the dream.”
Even if, as he admits, it may be “hard to appreciate the way the clothes are made” in a performance, where the viewer can’t see them as clearly as during a show.
The decision to do this during New York Fashion Week came because the event is being underwritten by Lexus, which approached Mr. Pugh last year about doing a project with the company. However, the performance is bound to have more impact in the first of the fashion week cities than it might in, say, Paris, which traditionally hosts numerous more “creative” and conceptual shows.
New York, by contrast is known (and, admittedly, stereotyped) as being both more business-focused and less aesthetically imaginative. The more out-there designers who have been part of the week, such as, say, Miguel Adrover, are often labeled “weird.” In this context, Mr. Pugh’s experiment will unquestionably make him stand out from the crowd, though whether that will be in a good way or a bad way is not yet clear.
“I know it’s a big risk,” he said. “And I’m worried. But I think it’s good to light a fire under your bum every once in a while.” (It should be pointed out that Mr. Pugh already sells at Barneys, Bergdorf’s and Neiman Marcus, so he has a certain amount of local support.)
Costing “a hell of a lot more than our usual show would cost” (though he is not sure how much, exactly), the event will be held Sept. 4, off the official fashion week schedule. Though it is still in the planning stages, Mr. Pugh said his team is looking at venues such as Public School 57 in Manhattan, and speaking to the choreographer Wayne McGregor, resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet in London, about using his troupe, Random Dance, in the event.
“It was just too good an opportunity to pass up,” said Mr. Pugh, who spoke to the Chambre Syndicale, which organizes the Paris week, about the switch. He said they were supportive, and would hold a slot for him to return to the Paris schedule next year. (In any case, because New York Fashion Week is so early, the entire collection will not be ready at the time of the performance; it will be sold to retailers two weeks later, in Paris.)
Mr. Pugh has, admittedly, been here before — conceptually if not literally. Though he has never shown in New York, he has swapped the catwalk for the cinema before, making a short film instead of a runway show in Paris for both fall 2009 and spring 2011. Personally (I was there), I found that the inability to see a complete collection made it difficult to assess from a critical point of view, but Mr. Pugh said he was happy with the results.
Louise Wilson — the former course director of the Fashion M.A. program at Central St. Martins in London, who died in May — “used to talk about the importance of how clothes are presented,” said Mr. Pugh, “and how that had been lost, and everyone just did the same thing. This is a chance to change that. ”
In a little more than a month, we’ll see if he is right.
Gareth Pugh On The Tudor 'Power Dressers'
"THE Tudors were the first power dressers," designer Gareth Pugh said, ahead of the launch of the In Fine Style exhibition at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh today. "They used clothes for a greater purpose than just clothing themselves. Clothes were worn by the monarchy then copied by the court, the merchants and middle classes - and ideas subsequently trickled down to different strands of society. This trickle-down effect can be seen today with modern fashion trends and it's interesting to observe the same process happening 400 or 500 years ago."
Pugh revealed that he became interested in period fashion aged 10, after being given an image of Elizabeth I wearing a ruff and voluminous dress. Hisspring/summer 2009 collection featured ruffled collars in a nod to the Elizabethan ruff, and the references didn't stop there.
"The opening outfit for spring/summer 2012 is my version of the traditional suit of armour," Pugh said. "The pieces in the spring/summer 2009 collection were very stately and the models walked in an upright and poised way with the dresses accentuating the waist. The silhouette we presented for autumn/winter 2014 placed emphasis on long regal skirts with crinolines underneath. Coats were split away with a clean triangle over another triangular shape. In physics the triangle is the strongest shape known to man. It's a silhouette of power and something I like to inject into my own work."
"We saw a complete fit between Gareth's work and the Tudor and Stuart aesthetic," Royal Collection Trust curator Anna Reynolds added. "We hope his involvement will bring young people with an interest in high fashion to the exhibition. It's the first collection that examines portraiture specifically from the angle of the clothes that people are wearing."
GARETH PUGH ABOUT FASHION FILMS INTEAD OF RUNWAY SHOWS
Days after Brit expat Gareth Pugh's Mercury and Ebony S/S 2011 collection was presented on an 8 x 15 meter Imax screen to a warehouse full of buyers and press, the avant-garde designer sits for an informal Q&A at the Louvre's Apple Store. The avant-gardeist snapped up France's ANDAM award in 2008 and was rumored as next in line at McQueen and Dior Homme. A talk with the young designer about the tentative future of catwalk shows, his sold-out shop in Hong Kong and why Saint Martins does not a star make.
Designed by Iwan from from Daytrip Studio who is super young, like 25. What was it like working with him? Garreth Pugh: I've known him since he was 18 and we're very good friends, I think that helps. My two stipulations were that I wanted it to look like a black box inside and that one wall could control video.
PARIS--Days after Brit expat Gareth Pugh's Mercury and Ebony S/S 2011 collection was presented on an 8 x 15 meter Imax screen to a warehouse full of buyers and press, the avant-garde designer sits for an informal Q&A at the Louvre's Apple Store. The avant-gardeist snapped up France's ANDAM award in 2008 and was rumored as next in line at McQueen and Dior Homme. The last in a series presented by Dazed and Confused called "Meet the Designer" the magazine's co-founder Jefferson Hack talks with the young designer about the tentative future of catwalk shows, his sold-out shop in Hong Kong and why Saint Martins does not a star make.
Jefferson Hack: Gareth's first store opened in Hong Kong in July. It was designed by Iwan from from Daytrip Studio who is super young, like 25. What was it like working with him? Gareth Pugh: I've known him since he was 18 and we're very good friends, I think that helps. My two stipulations were that I wanted it to look like a black box inside and that one wall could control video.
JH: There's a video wall that also beams out into the street and an application where people can buy from it, like using his store as a broadcast medium....like a TV station or something. GP: The store is nestled between Comme Des Garcons and Gucci, so I wanted the shop to speak for itself. To scream. JH: Describe opening night. GP: It was surreal to turn the corner and see a shop with my name on, it looked like the inside of my head.
JH: Are those tiles [inside the store]? GP: That's actually the changing room, they're tiles covered in leather. It's like a padded cell. The message is NOT that you have to be mad to buy my clothes.
JH: I heard the entire stock sold out opening night, is that just a rumor? GP: Yeah. The factory delivered part of the stock.
JH: (after screening a teaser of the SS11 film directed by Ruth Hogben) You work with strong women like Raquel Zimmerman and Natasha Vodianova that move in a certain way. What type of woman do you look for? GP: They have to be able to perform and they have to get it right the first time. It lends itself to these extravagant temptress kind of women. For me it's amazing to find a woman that has both masculinity/femininity. And that's really important for my clothes. You need somewhat that powerful to carry them off.
JH: There's been a strong reaction from the press and critics on the collection and the film. Are people starting to accept fashion film as an alternative to catwalk shows? For the record, what was your motivation for making a film and not traditional show? GP: It was about bringing it to a wider audience and about having complete control over what I bring to that audience. So many things can go wrong with a show and so many things can go wrong in a film but people don't see those mistakes. It was about taking back control and showing them what I want them to see.
JH: Did the experience match the motivation/expectation of how you wanted it to be received? And also the emotion of it, the feeling of the audience afterward? GP: Obviously when I do a show there's a big release at the end. You feel a sense of elation or ''Oh, it's finished we can get drunk." We kind of had that when we finished shooting. Then it was two weeks of editing. So there were less peaks and troughs in my mood. Which I think was good. The show is a very small part about what I do as a designer. As soon as the show finishes it's straight into sales and this time I was able to concentrate on getting that side of things right. It's often forgotten, or I often forget, that the show is one part of that but, this week, starting from today actually, is where the business happens and I could concentrate on that more.
JH: It is as expensive to make a fashion film as it to stage a show, is that right? GP: Yeah. I think a lot of people don't realize that. They consider the option of doing a film as secondary to doing a show because it's a cheap cop out. JH: I think you've proved the complete opposite. Done at the level at which you do it, is a very clear and viable alternative for you and your brand and your vision. GP: I think it's about the choices that you make with regards to the amount of money you spend on things to communicate your brand. To do a show in front of 300 people maybe doesn't make as much sense to me as making a film that we can present to, potentially millions of people around the world that can see. The idea is not diluted or edited in any way as it can be when you see pictures on sites like style.com. It's basically what I want people to see. I think the investment...you can reap those benefits. It's worth the money.
JH: Finally Gareth, if you could have any budget to stage any event to show your clothes, what would it be, another film? GP: Fashion shows themselves have evolved over the past 20 years into this slick presentation. I've seen videos of shows in the 80's and there was like press all up and down the runway--it was somewhat chaotic, like a bullfight. I'm not trying to say it's the future. It's an idea of doing something different. I'm not saying that I'm never going to do a runway show again. It's very open.
(Audience) How has Central Saint Martins had an effect on you? Its one of those infamous place so many people have come from. Louise Wilson that teaches on the MA there always jokes that people come in to study at St. Martins expect to be sprinkled with some magic dust and made into a star designer. That's really not how it is there. It's very lo-fi and cramped and there's like one sewing machine to every ten students. I had this theory when I was there that everything you want to do there is made so much harder. Even down to the incredibly unhelpful library staff to or the people that work in the fashion office. It teaches you that if you want to do something you have to do it yourself. You can't rely on other people to do it for you. It's kind of my Achilles Heel I suppose because the bigger things get the more stuff that I have to do and oversee and organize. But I wouldn't be happy if I wasn't able to have such control over things.