Gareth Pugh

Inflatable balloon dresses, bizarre superhero costumes, Cubist armour – Gareth Pugh’s creations are both unsettling and fascinating. They seem to have dropped out of the distant future into the here and now, and have made the young Englishman a shooting star on the London fashion scene overnight. In their radicalism, his surreal fashions are closer to conceptual art than to street fashions. You can easily imagine them in science-fiction films. It is thus no surprise that performers such as Marilyn Manson and Kylie Minogue call on him for their elaborate stage performances. The resulting enfant terrible image, right at the start of his career, has already earned him comparisons with Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood.

Born in 1981 in Sunderland, Tyneside, Gareth Pugh was an early starter, already working as a costume designer for London’s National Youth Theatre at the age of fourteen – an experience still reflected in his sculptural designs. At sixteen, he gave up ballet training for full-time fashion. After he graduated from Central St Martins College in London in 2003, it took him only two years to debut at the London Fashion Week. Pugh sent a sinister carnival parade out on the catwalk – black, shiny harlequins with grotesquely dimensioned millstone collars around the neck or balloon sculptures on their heads. Playing with volumes and outré materials such as latex, mink, vinyl or parachute silk, accompanied by references to history (absolutism) and comic culture (superheroes), have become his trademark. In 2007 Elle magazine named him Young Designer of the Year. Awarded to him soon after was the Andam prize of the French Association Nationale pour le Développement des Arts de la Mode, the fashion industry’s most prestigious award. The prize of € 152,000 gave him for the first time in his career financial room to manœuvre. In 2008 he began exhibiting in Paris, where he put on his first ready-to-wear show, once again astonishing public and critics alike with amazons clad white in front and black behind, apparently emerging into the light from a distant shadow realm. With their reptilian scales and projecting cuirasses, these clothes are more armour than gowns. Their elegance is based once again on the conflict between fantasy and Victorian severity. Practical wearability is a secondary consideration. In an industry in which creativity and daring are becoming more and more divorced from the notion of profit, Gareth Pugh, with his uncompromising fashions and sense of spectacle, is nonetheless undoubtedly among the most interesting designer personalities of today.

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