Fashion shows are always best when submerged in a murky miasma of subterfuge. Confidentiality agreements are signed, toiles closely guarded, materials hidden, sketches are talismans: in short, everything must remain an absolute secret until it is broadcast, worldwide, for its mind-boggling fifteen minutes of fame. This season, the big secret was what Gareth Pugh was going to show - or rather, how. Rumblings had emerged beforehand that Pugh's presentation would be a 'show' without the catwalk - namely that he was another designer making a brave foray into fashion film. For Pugh, this move seems quite natural - a designer who has cited 'The Wizard of Oz meets Predator' as design influences is bound to have a certain cinematic bent to their vision. Accordingly, this season Pugh teamed with filmmaker Ruth Hogben, alongside established stalwarts Katie Shillingford, Matthew Stone, Simon Costin and Alex Box, to craft the latest addition to his catalogue of triumphs.
Against a backdrop of dry ice ('Think Pan's People' said Pugh before the show), his entire collection was projected larger-than-life on the equally arresting free-flowing form of Natasa V. Since moving to Paris, it seems Pugh has upped his ante (perhaps quite naturally enough) and seems to be creating clothes people could - and would - actually wear. This collection, he said, was something of a 180-degree twist: turning that inverted triangle silhouette he has been working since Fashion East in 2005 (the self-same one everyone else seems to be cottoning onto) right-way up again. In place of leggings, we had billowing, aggressive gypsy skirts - think Romany Matrix and you'd be halfway there - and on top, body-cleaving stretch sweaters and anatomically shredded leather. Moving away from his earlier puffed-up and pumped-out abstraction, Pugh's latest collections seem to have a new affinity with the body and nature as a whole - soft, slipstream silk chiffons billowed, bubbled and melted across the screen like a sinister (but beautiful) Rorschach inkblot. Aesthetically arresting, yes, but equally they seemed eminently saleable: ditto Pugh's strong statement for long in floor-length pleated skirts, ankle-grazing coats and wide trousers, all of which he assured us are rendered in the finest leather, Italian wool and cashmere suiting. For those who feel this has all got too haute luxe for the master of high concept, a series of simple separates studded with Hellraiser-style nails were a perfect example of the short, sharp shock treatments Pugh so loves.
Graphic, dramatic and emphatic: like a perfume ad, this film was all about the dark, concentrated essence absolue of Pugh's vision, and the cinematic treatment did his equally blockbuster imagination ample justice.