Stonehenge, that mysterious Druid construction in South West England, and the Wicker Man, a pagan figure from the same era, were inspirations for Gareth Pugh.
For his visual presentation in New York, by way of three separate films, and the collection he is now showing in Paris, the British designer delved deep into history yet made intelligible clothes.
Pugh is a profound thinker and his clothes are unique, even if they expressed similar ideas to those of other forward-looking designers: the importance of cut that relates to the body with as few seams as possible; and the use of tactile materials.
Those effects came together in two dresses: one in raw hessian with the texture of a sack, the other in fringed chiffon. They represented the ancient British tradition of corn dollies and the May Queen, and both were folded without seams, square to the body. The second of the two a modern woman could wear anywhere.
It was good to see a re-run of the movies, because there Pugh could present the clothes via dance, his original calling, and with ritualistic accessories like face-covering witchy hats. But as a designer he has matured, producing pieces as relatively simple as a black dress with an attached cloak-shaped coat, both decorated with pearl buttons, in yet another cultural nod – this time to British “Pearly Queens”.
“It’s about linking to long-forgotten superstitions that have a lot to do with creativity,” said Pugh, referring to ancient agriculture, harvest time, the goddess of the sea and “the idea of death and renewal”.
Since Pugh’s father is in the police force, the reference to the policeman hero of the 1973 movie, The Wicker Man, had a personal significance to the designer.
Also in the frame of this spring/summer 2015 collection were Pugh’s more familiar dresses in graphic black-and-white diamond patterns, so complicated in construction, but so streamlined on the body.
Since Pugh has been gradually making his clothes more accessible, this fine collection could not be described as a re-birth. But the clothes – like a chiffon top decorated with pearl buttons or the hessian weave – seemed down to earth, in both senses of the phrase. And the designer confirmed that trend.
“I wanted it to be more about the earth than something that landed from a space ship,” Pugh said.