Gareth Pugh's show will undoubtedly be one of the highlights at the upcoming Paris Fashion Week. This season marks the first during which the designer will show in Paris instead of London, thanks to the Andam International Fashion Award he won not too long ago, which translates to 152,000 euros for his label (past winners of the prize include Viktor & Rolf and Martin Margiela). Though Pugh has been compared to Alexander McQueen, he's heralded for his utterly unique and mesmerizing vision. Photographer Nick Knight, whose worked with Pugh for years, tells the Independent, "What will be interesting is to discover what happens when he gets a large amount of money behind him." Especially since he didn't even sell a piece of clothing until eighteen months ago. Here are a few interesting tidbits about the designer to help get you just as jazzed as we are about his upcoming show.
Dazed & Confused editor Jefferson Hack thought early on Pugh would produce one ten-piece collection a year for a gallery, each piece going for 50,000 pounds. But…
His current autumn/winter collection was produced, for the most part, in specialist factories in Italy and is available at only the most upmarket and innovative stores around the world — Browns in London, Colette in Paris, Seven, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman in New York. A single piece sells for thousands, and only the most open-minded and confident women are ever likely to wear them.
One of Pugh's most famous creations was a catsuit that mirrored the silhouette of a giant poodle with ears made out of condoms.
Why a poodle? One could be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of wry statement concerning the primped and preened nature of the fashion industry but — and as is often the case with fashion that seems unfamiliar to the point of shocking — the reason behind it is more straightforward, and indeed comic, than that. "The starting point for that show was fairgrounds," Pugh says, deadpan. "You know when you make those little balloon animals? It's always a poodle you make, isn't it?"
Jefferson Hack says Pugh's mother is rather supportive.
"She told me that when Gareth was at art college doing his foundation, he used to make her lie naked on the kitchen table so that he could do moulds of her."
He doesn't always use women models to model women's clothes.
Although the designer's collections are aimed at women, his designs are sometimes shown on men not for any self-consciously subversive, gender-bending reason, he claims, but because "male models are just cheaper"
"There were these great teachers [at Central St. Martins, where I went to college]," [Pugh] says, "like Howard [Tangye], who taught Galliano, he's been there for years. I remember he said to us: 'Don't think you're going to be designers when you leave, because you're not.' And I always joke with my helpers that when they're at college and they have their final collection, it's called a final collection for a reason — it's the only one they'll ever do. Hahahaha."
Pugh's big break came when Kylie Minogue's stylist stopped by and asked him to turn a bunch of black fabric into a show outfit. Pugh recalls:
"It was like a tiny paper bag, but the fabric inside was worth £1,500. And we had this rampant dog in the squat which was just ripping things up. Thankfully, it got hold of one of my T-shirts, but not the contents of that bag. I started Kylie in the squat and had to finish it in the living room of a pub landlord who let me use his house because we'd been kicked out."
Rick Owens and his wife, Michelle Lamy, are helping Pugh sell his designs, which has enabled him to become a luxury brand. Jefferson Hack explains:
"They are statement pieces, the production qualities are incredibly high and he uses extremely decadent fabrics … These are not just clothes knocked out in some East End factory, but involve high-end Italian craftsmanship. Very few people understand how hard someone like Gareth works. He is, today, more of a luxury brand than many of the obvious names that call themselves that."
Pugh on showing in Paris:
"At the end of the day it is about making money and there's nowhere you realise that more than when you go to Paris. Although it never started out as some kind of business plan, in hindsight, the over-the-top shows and all the attention really set me up. For someone who is relatively new at the whole selling thing and who's never done any advertising, it's worked out quite well."