Gareth Pugh – In Conversation with Mandi LennardPosted by Jo on Wednesday 24th February 2016
Who would have thought that in amongst the crinolines and Georgian finery at Bath’s Fashion Museum would sit the creative genius that is Gareth Pugh. In conversation with PR guru Mandi Lennard, the intimate basement space was filled with attentive students, press and fashion fans all wanting to hear about his relatively rapid rise into this notoriously tough industry. Pugh quipped, “This is like ‘This is your life’”!
Each year the Fashion Museum asks a fashion expert to choose an ensemble from the international fashion collections that they feel is the most exciting, or directional, or simply sums up the year in fashion. 2014, according to Katie Grand Editor-in-Chief of LOVE magazine, was all about Pugh and his layered coat and trouser ensemble. Think heavily wrapped plastic sheeting cinched with an obi belt worn over calico trousers that seamlessly morph into boots. Gareth described the look as “a work in progress,” and particularly enjoyed the play on cheap DIY fabric and toile being worked into such an ethereal, romantic and grand silhouette.
On selecting the look (pictured right) Katie Grand told the press: “I'm delighted to have been asked to select the Dress of the Year and to me Gareth's plastic dress sums up 2014. I like the idea of how fancy and complex the dress is in structure, yet made of something so disposable. I had a super time photographing this with David Sims for Love 12; it was so easy as it gives a couture silhouette yet is 'punk', it's Edwardian, forties, seventies and two thousands all at the same time. It is familiar in its historical references yet utterly new in its execution.”
Speaking frankly about his career and industry experiences you cannot help but like Pugh he is down-to-earth, honest and despite receiving much critical acclaim is humble about his achievements. His core ethos is about “integrity”and remaining true to his creative vision. “I’m not driven by the dollar and forcing product down people’s throats.” However, Pugh assures he is fully aware of the commercial pressures and that to survive in this industry you need to sell. Speaking about his vision he states, “I only do things that I want to do, I’m quite stubborn and we have a very specific client.” His high profile clients include the likes of Kylie Minogue, Lady GaGa and Beyonce, and you can see that Pugh enjoys his designing for these strong, defined women.
A selection of Pugh's designs
Along with integrity Pugh is also incredibly grateful to those that he has met along the way. Always keen to remain around other ‘creatives’ Pugh decided to share a squatted studio space in South East London when he left Central Saint Martins in 2003. His advice to the many students in the audience was to retain a wide range of creative relationships beyond university, as these will grow and form the next generation leading figures in their field.
Pugh cites many key individuals and there’s no doubt that Nicola Formichetti is one such individual that recognized Pugh’s talent from early on. Not only did Formichetti, the renowned fashion director and editor, feature Pugh’s bulbous design on the front cover of Dazed & Confused (pictured left) but he led him to other key creatives such as Nick Knight, “working with Nick is creativity in it’s purist form,” and Lulu Kennedy, “she took a chance on me,” who gave Pugh a Fashion East catwalk slot early on in his career.
Chance meetings at key moments, Pugh adds, “everything happens for a reason, I’m a great believer in that.” Of course he adds, “You do have to work your ass off and have the right amount of luck” to succeed. And when it comes to luck Pugh has been rather fortunate, with his immediate team, the individuals that he has met and the timing of exposure and awards. One such example was winning the ANDAM, Association Nationale pour le Developpment des Arts de la Mode, in 2008. Gaining this prestigious award not only gave Pugh global visibility but also saw his catwalk presentations move from London to Paris at a time when he needed to gain more presence with leading buyers.
Seven years later Pugh moved his show temporarily to New York before celebrating his tenth anniversary with a return to London. As with his clothing Pugh is open to presenting his work in a variety of formats and in particular, thanks to his early collaborations with Nick Knight, is fond of film. As a part of his SS16 presentation Pugh worked with filmmaker Ruth Hogben to present designs from his collection against a Soho backdrop. A fitting concept given that London Fashion Week had just moved from Somerset House to Soho that very season. Pugh speaks fondly of Soho, “Central Saint Martins was just around the corner and I wanted to show the old school Soho that represents creativity, freedom and individualism.”
Despite conflicting reports in the press Pugh has always lived and worked in London. “All my creative family are here.” And surprisingly his immediate team is relatively small with just three permanently working on the brand in London while all his production takes place in Italy. He admits that his business has had its fair share of money pressures, “all the money I make I plough back into the next collection.” However, Pugh has been fortunate enough to receive backing from designer Rick Owens and his wife Michele Lamy, a true testament to his creative prowess.
(Image right: Pugh's early work shown on the Fashion East platform in Feb 2005)
Pugh’s work has been described by Hint Mag “as kind of magical theatricality with experiments in proportion, scale and, most of all, irony.” For me there has been a fascination with Pugh’s work from the very beginning. I was privileged to see his very first Fashion East presentation where he cobbled a collection together in just over 4-weeks after another designer had dropped out. Even then his work was full of drama, exaggeration, sculpture and gothic elements, it was new and exciting, and swayed towards art merged with fashion. And while I agree that hard work, luck, integrity and great contacts can lead the way to success you can’t forget one other essential ingredient, and that’s talent, which Pugh has in spades.
Gareth Pugh – In Conversation with Mandi Lennard at The Fashion Museum Bath.
Article by JoJo Iles (pictured with Pugh below)