Gareth Pugh, Paris' crown Prince of Darkness, is the last designer you'd expect to get all spiritual on us. But religion and spirituality have been on Pugh's mind for Autumn/Winter 2011, which is only natural following his recent stint as guest designer of Pitti Immagine and hundreds of collective hours of staring up at all those Florentine church frescos.
The site-specific collection Pugh created for that outing in January undoubtedly influenced this latest show, but Pugh is never a designer to rest on his laurels. The cross-over came, most immediately, in the colour - blue, the cerulean of Elysian skies filched from fifteenth-century religious icons; and rich, baroque gold. Lest that sound too referential and reverential, those are also the colours of an unconventional future. Remember C-3PO's golden carapace in Star Wars? Or the brilliant, chilly azure of laser beams and LED displays. The latter popped up in the models' mouths, emitting an eerie glow, their bodies faceted with gilt sequins that recalled not only armour, but Italian Scraffito painting, the idea of something precious breaking through a layer of black.
Of course, black abounded - this is Gareth Pugh after all. It also makes good commercial sense, and since showing in Paris Pugh has become a savvy businessman. His black, drippy-drapey tailoring was tessellated into complex shapes and spliced with leather, and he caught onto the fluidity of the moment with plisse palazzo trousers - for women and men - that resembled billowing drapery. They made great runway spectacle, but they're going to fly off the rack too.
The refreshing thing was that they looked new, too. In fact, this whole collection did. Pugh's vision is always one of the future, and while he has knowledge of and respect for the past, he never allows his clothing to be coloured by nostalgia. His stony-faced models reflected that stance today, marching ever-onwards with nary a glance at the jet-streams of chiffon trailing in their wake. In a season where designers seem obsessed with paying homage (read: ripping-off) every decade from the twenties through to the nineties rather than making a compelling statement of their own, Pugh's single-minded forward-thinking seems even more unique.