Pugh's woman isn't defending herself, she's going to war. Shy and retiring she certainly ain't.
Those ever-important spring 2012 backstage sound-bites have been filled with cant about designers fighting the idea of 'sweetness' in fashion. But how do you really fight those stereotypes? Do you show us how you perceive women now, all prim pastels and ruffled jabots, a sacrifice to the Doris Day altar of the 'weaker' sex? Or do you propose us something new, something stronger and more forceful?
There's no prizes for guessing which route Gareth Pugh chose. He's never really been about pink, but he's always been about power. It was there in his opening outfit, a superstructure fusing the Starship Enterprise with a samurai warrior and encasing his model from nape to hip, like armour protecting her flank. Or, of course, covering her front - Pugh's woman isn't defending herself, she's going to war. Shy and retiring she certainly ain't.
The same is true of Pugh himself. He takes no prisoners, and is utterly uncompromising in his aesthetic focus. This season, he pulled out all the stops - it felt a little like a greatest hits collection, and indeed was a timely reminder of just how great those hits have been. The opener reprised his fashion film forays with an atmospheric film piece created with director Ruth Hogben, which continued to unfold as the collection marched out.
Dissecting that cinematic short gave us out clues as to Pugh's themes for the collection - a model trapped in a matrix of interlocking nets reflecting Pugh's graphic obsessions. We saw that in those boned samurai superstructures, open-weave net sweaters and neat geometric knits - and we saw it boiled down to make commercial sense in standout windowpane-check outerwear (stand-out both literally and figuratively: the boy cuts a mean neoprene trapeze).
The Gareth greatest hits came in the theatrical show-stoppers - more of the warrior armouring, gargantuan skirts and coats filled with air like zephyr balloons, and a violent, violet finale of purple flames and models with heads clad in outlandish, face-concealing fibreglass Philip Treacy helmets. That had an air of his early, edgy London days, reprised here with an added Parisian gloss of luxury. There was no dodgy sticky-backed plastic, bin-liners or sex-shop shoes, but silk, cashmere and nappa leather, alongside a cohesive and forward-looking summary of Pugh's vision for modern fashion. Modern fashion?! That's a phrase we haven't been hearing much of, ironically, for spring 2012. Leave it to Pugh - it rhymes with 'new' - to show us the way to look ahead.