Gareth Pugh Collaborates with Nick Knight at LFW SS18

"The bird fights it's way out of the egg. Whoever wants to be born must first destroy a world." - Herman Hesse.

For Spring 2018, the gothic avant-garde of Gareth Pugh stepped away from the catwalk once again to collaborate with friend, founder and director of SHOWstudio, Nick Knight in order create a disturbing masterpiece of fashion film. The pair have worked countless times together over the past ten years. Working alongside Gareth Pugh and Nick Knight was world-renowned choreographer Wayne McGregor and multifaceted-artist Olivier de Sagazan. The short film was debuted on Saturday, during London Fashion Week and was showcased in the BFI IMAX in Waterloo, home to apparently thee largest screen in Europe. In an interview with Dazed, Pugh went on to describe that his intention was to have control over what people take away, his message and what he wants to say with each show - something he had found difficult in the past with the traditional fashion show circumstance. "With film, you're able to create an immersive world where people can essentially lose themselves," said Pugh, "Especially showing it somewhere like the IMAX - there's potential to really get under people's skin. I love the fact that the best seats at the IMAX are in the back row, rather than the front row." A maybe unintentional stab at the often celebrity-driven front rows at some fashion shows? That doesn't interest Pugh in the slightest, nor should it.

Whether wearable or not, Pugh is a visually striking and surreal storyteller and his latest offering only emphasised that. Knight is the same. He's designed ballet costumes for the Royal Opera House in the past and he sure would be perfect for Hollywood - if he were to take another route to fashion design. Spring 2018 was filled with staple Gareth Pugh shapes, huge oversized cowl collars, working with plastics and creating cage-like sculptures for the body. His work tends to explore some form of an S&M fetish. This season was the about the tortured process Pugh goes through to create his avant-garde fashions. If that had came from most other designers, then it would have came across as pretentious, but not in Pugh's case, the garments he creates not just this season, but every season earn him the right to confidently explore his tortured process as inspiration. This was a collection born out of fire, refer to the film and the Herman Hesse quote Gareth selected that I opened this blog post with, and so the flame prints were new. His clothes were aggressive, uncompromising, unapologetic and threatening in both colour and form.

"There is a lot of red this season" recalled Gareth, "I love the idea of it being a signal - a warning, or a danger sign. It's also the colour of blood." Unsurprisingly, the red pieces felt the strongest, especially the crinkled metallic looks. For Gareth Pugh and for Nick Knight I might add, fashion is all about looking to the future, looking at ways to push things forward and pushing the boundaries. It provides creatives like both Nick and more so Gareth in particular with endless opportunities for experimentation. Anyway, the crinkled metallic pieces, some riffed on the face-obscuring-burlap-sack-scarecrows of Spring 2015. If those were about the earth, then these pieces looked as if Gareth had stuck his hands into the ground and unearthed these futuristic creatures. In parts it was very sci-fi. The cowl-collared jumpsuit for example looked like nothing that had been done before, baggy in the leg and nipped at the waist. It was authentic but still forced the viewer to adjust their eye. Gareth doesn't follow trends, he never has done in his career that's already surpassed the decade mark. So how does one go about giving birth to a new reality, a new vision in a fashion-sphere in which so much has been copied or reworked? Well, that was the narrative Gareth's new film would unfold.

Based on the concept of Duende, or the spirit of evocation, as outlined by Lorca in 1933. Intense, disturbing, eerie, frightening, unsettling, gross, beautiful, incredible. It begins with two hair-slicked and suited men, Gareth and Olivier, seated at a table opposite to one another, as if starring in a cliché Japanese mafia film, before they begin to smear their faces and bodies in clay until distorted like a Francis Bacon painting. This is the stuff of which nightmares are made of. Was it Gareth's response to corporate fashion? "I was daring myself to get serious, and to make the film I've always wanted to make," he explains. "Film offers such a different scope for narrative." The soundtrack plays a vital role in this fashion film, something that is often overlooked says Knight, the music they collaborated on with sound artist Roly Porter. I can't recall the last time I seen anything like this, the last time a person reached inside a pregnant clay stomach sculpted on Pugh's torso and pulled out, well I don't know exactly what - before essentially killing Gareth Pugh's character himself in the gruesome manner that it is. I won't lie, this isn't an easy watch until well, the mood softens as the fashion begins to appear properly. Having said that, I would never want to discourage anyone from watching it. This isn't the first time Gareth has used film however, his first film was with Ruth Hogben for A/W 09 during Paris Fashion Week who he's collaborated with many times with afterwards. That first film was almost ten years ago, but I do believe this will go down in fashion history as one of the true pioneering moments for fashion away from the catwalk, and who else to believe this from than Gareth Pugh himself. 

After his fashion show, actually strike that. After his film premiere, Gareth went off to marry his long-term partner Carson McColl on Saturday afternoon. Nick Knight had the honour of officiating at their wedding. I wish Gareth the recognition he deserves and I wish the pair a lifetime of happiness and joy. I would like to dedicate this blog post to collaboration, togetherness and love.

Images courtesy of Dazed Digital and Vogue Runway

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