Gareth Pugh is one of those shows we always expect to treat fashion as an art. We know from the outset he doesn’t intend for looks to be worn as they are presented. However, this season’s collection may require a little more explanation than normal. This is the opening paragraph of the designer’s notes:
It’s an audacious play for any designer: a full-length opera and a runway show scheduled to debut over two cities within 24 hours. For Gareth Pugh, a designer known for an intense creative method and obsessive attention to detail, it’s an unequivocal expression of confidence and determination.
So, to say Pugh has been busy is an understatement. That his work with the opera would be reflected in his clothing collection is understandable. While we’re rather accustomed to Pugh pushing the boundaries of our accepted aesthetics, in this case, we also need to understand some of the symbolism that goes along with it.
The opera is Eliogabalo, based on the life of one or Rome’s most cruel tyrant emperors. Not only was he horribly vicious and cruel, he was frequently obscene and even proclaimed himself a sun god. After defiling multiple temples, angering both the Senate and the Praetorian Guard, and bringing chaos to the whole of society, he was finally assassinated at the age of 17.
It is the symbolism of the sun god from which Pugh gains inspiration for this collection. The sunburst factors dominantly as does the gold chunks that at times represent wealth as due deity but also represents chaos in a mosaic form. Square shouldered pieces represent bureaucrats who become run over by an aggressive phalanx as seen in the purple pieces. There is a battle for power and Pugh leave the question open as to who might win. He ends with a return to the sunburst, representing now fertility, mysticism, and renewal.
Whew. That’s a lot to pack into a runway presentation. What’s amazing, though, and the demonstration of Pugh’s genius, is that even through all the costume elements, one can see wardrobe pieces here that are not only strikingly beautiful but also surprisingly wearable. There are club wear pieces, day wear pieces, loungewear and fantastically wonderful formal dresses.
So, okay, maybe you don’t really want the 30-pound headdress. That’s understandable. But if you’re looking for a collection full of drama, something that captures the beauty of chaos, then this a collection you want to consider. After all, the best drama isn’t on the stage but in our own lives.