The press may be obsessed with agitating about Donald Trump, but it’s Hillary Clinton who’s won the hearts and minds (and social media shout-outs) of the fashion pack. At Marc Jacobs’ show in New York, Anna Wintour wore a Jacobs t-shirt featuring Clinton's face emblazoned in sequins with '2016' written underneath. For A/W 16, Gareth Pugh was also thinking about female leadership. But, when filtered through his high-concept vision, things felt more sharp suited Iron Lady, than 2016 (even if the bold blue and stars made one think of Clinton’s campaign over the Atlantic).
Pugh has an incredible way with fluidity, but he always tends to gravitate towards angles - sharp shoulders, exaggerated triangles. While enveloping, wrap-around jackets made an appearance, alongside sweeping wide-leg trousers, it was the stiffer tailoring that seemed to define the collection. On remembering the power dressing of the eighties and the years where to be taken seriously woman had to dress like a man, I wondered, at first, why Pugh would latch on to such a conservative idea. But then, look closely, and this felt like a parody of that - you noticed it in the way models cheeks were hitched up with wire to suggest a fake, cartoon woman. Indeed, this woman wasn’t seeking to blend in the boardroom, but terrify in the boardroom. Those Hannibal Lecter masks certainly suggested she was ready and willing to eat you alive. It seems lazy or cliched to call Pugh’s work futuristic, but he does sometimes seem to cater to some super human creature - one unruffled by real life.
There’s been a lot of hyper femininity at the shows this season - fluff, fur, pink, tutus, volume, embellishment, ‘amusing’ slogans and silly, light details. It’s often, strangely, heralded as youthful or progressive. This was an antidote to that. Fierce, adult, angry. You saw that in the way Marie-Agnès Gillot, prima ballerina at the Paris Opera Ballet, strided down the runway before surveying proceedings from a throne (a regular prop at a Pugh show).
In his show notes, Pugh talked of ‘the visual codes of raw female ambition.’ So, to an extent that apparent nostalgia was acknowledged - one understands the nods to how powerful women have historically presented themselves. Many will call those outdated dress codes. But I thought not of women trying to emulate men, smashing the glass ceiling by adopting suits, shirts and tweed, but of the outfits that women would have worn if they’d always been in charge - that’s a concept to fantasise about.