Gareth Pugh's parents sit front-row at all of his fashion spectaculars. You can't help but wonder what Mr and Mrs Pugh make of their son's work, his darker urges and his sometimes disturbing vision of a dystopian future that's only ever a season away. This time, there was a wall of fabric criss-crossed with twine as Christo-alike backdrop and a black snowstorm to open. Well, it's Autumn/Winter 2012 and Pugh is a Sunderland boy. You have to wrap up warm in the North East of England.
So his models romper-stomped out not in the sharp-edged, Pugh-patented patent polyhedra, but in beastly layers of fringe, fur and hair. Some of it was real - there were wafting walls of silvery fox and thick goat-hair - but much of it was achieved through skeins of wool or shredded fabric piled up around the neck and shoulders. When you looked at those pile-ups, they were trademark Pugh, emerging from the collarbone or shoulders and jutting past the cheekbones like prehensile limbs - or some kind of hyper-evolved fighting apparatus. Fighting in Pugh's usual clothes could be difficult, but these garments were made for movement, from sturdy wedge heels through to short, full skirts sometimes edged in a furry flange of pelt to emphasise the movement even more. One, crafted from a techno-taffeta that looked like a cross between a haversack and a survival blanket, billowed out in back like a parachute, while others wrapped the arms and shoulders, pinning them to the sides. They were a cross between kinky bondage, and terribly practical bandage.
Survival. That's what this Pugh show was all about. It's what every young designer really should be obsessed with, in the arctic retails climes we're experiencing. Pugh's show examined it on several levels - first the hackles of fur, like prehistoric caveman couture or Mongolian warlords, protection against the elements. Then the overall aesthetic of Pugh's women, warriors clad in gladiator skirts, striding ominously out to take the world by force, an all-female army. And finally, the fact that those mohair and wool full-skirted dresses bound with leather, those fox-shouldered jackets, those cape-backed, skinny-sleeved coats all looked so desirable to a luxury goods consumer. They also represented a new and timely expansion of the Pugh aesthetic, which can occasionally seem straitjacketed when limited to the thirty-something statement catwalk looks. It may have stayed on the dark, but not on the narrow - Pugh's vision today, creatively and commercially, was broader than ever before.