When Gareth Pugh complained, a year ago last spring, that despite healthy press attention and consistently crowded shows he had yet to sell a single dress, one couldn’t help but wish British avant-garde fashion icon Isabella Blow had lived long enough to champion this young, somewhat nutty designer. Blow could have demonstrated that it is entirely possible to wear Pugh’s rather out-there ideas (water wings, Perspex chain mail, and fabrics made from condoms and balloons) to, say, lunch. Until recently, the Central Saint Martins graduate (class of 2003) wasn’t much concerned with wearability; his work was conceptual, exploring and distorting the human form. This season, however, Pugh left London to show in Paris. It’s where the serious business is. Unpack this spring’s dynamic, robo–Queen Elizabeth looks and there are some wearable, even minimalist pieces.
First pet: A budgie, Hoppy.
Favorite childhood toy: A rocking horse my grandpa made.
Worst vice: Staying up way too late; bedtime is circa 2 a.m.
Favorite song: “Daddy Cool,” by Boney M.
Favorite book: Manhood, by Michel Leiris.
Favorite season: Fall: fur-and-sunglasses weather.
Color you can’t resist: Black, of course.
Christophe Decarnin at Balmain
Every so often the fashion world falls obsessively in love with a designer because he is making exactly the clothes the cool kids would like to be wearing that very minute. That designer now is Balmain’s Decarnin. He claims Roitfeld mère (the French Vogue editor) et fille (the New York transplant and art director) as clients and muses; their influence is manifest in the sexy minidresses, rock-influenced basics like distressed jeans and tuxedo jackets, mullet-cut ball gowns (short in front, long in the back), and extreme shoulder pads that are giving this old house a new relevance and sense of now—thanks to the eighties trend still coursing through fashion. And because Balmain has been one of the great French couture houses for decades, all these casually, perfectly hip clothes are finished with beautiful technique, giving them weight and seriousness.
Decarnin declined our questionnaire, saying he doesn’t answer personal questions.
Andreas Melbostad of Phi
Phi—a small, New York–based fashion label backed by Susan Dell (wife of Dell founder Michael)—has struggled to find itself. Its first seasons were off-key for an American sportswear label, with dark, aggressive styles and ham-handed tailoring. But two seasons ago, Norwegian-born creative director Melbostad softened the lines but kept enough edge to make it interesting, and Phi coalesced around a real point of view, commercially viable but with personality. This spring’s clothes are clean and sharp, although there are still occasional trend stumbles—harem pants will probably never gain a great retail following, but Melbostad’s nicely detailed slip dresses and jackets will.
Favorite city: New York.
Person alive or dead you’d most like to see in your designs: Marlene Dietrich.
Favorite song: “New Dawn Fades,” by Joy Division.
Favorite artist: At the moment I am very interested in the work of Richard Lindner.
Color you can’t resist: Black.
Kane tends to pick themes for his collections, and some are more successful than others. One of the launching points this season was Planet of the Apes (seriously), but that’s almost incidental. The clothes were exciting and original, ethereal and origamilike in their deft, light, precise layers. They were sometimes paired with a clumsy jungle print, but that didn’t distract from Kane’s evident skill. Kane, who’s not yet 30 and designs with his sister, still has time to sort through the universe of influences he’s so enamored of to develop a personal signature. In the meantime, the experimentation is fantastic to watch.
First pet: I have had boxer dogs all my life. My first puppy was called Clyde.
Favorite childhood toy: My sisters’ Cabbage Patch dolls.
Your muse: Right now, Helena Bonham Carter.
Worst vice: Not knowing when to stop eating. I love to indulge.
Designers who most inspired you growing up: Gianni Versace and Helmut Lang.
Cocktail of choice: Espresso martini.
Favorite book: Lolita.
Trend you wish would go away: Neon, for a little while.
Color you can’t resist: Black. I have to wear it every day.
Take away the giant Pac-Man helmets that Deacon (regrettably) used to accessorize his show, and what’s left are 52 surprisingly wearable looks. The designer himself, with his big glasses and ironic-retro style, is far more outlandish than the clothes he made this season, which are simple and well-executed, rather mature, and, occasionally, even bourgeois—in an elegant, positive sense. He cuts a mean sheath, a sharp jacket, and a pretty peplum skirt, some of it touched with pop references (the Pac-Man), some of it left beautifully alone. Though his own social life centers around the London clubs rather than the Upper East Side benefit circuit, there is a hint of Oscar de la Renta in some of what Deacon does. It may not seem consistent with his hipster friends, but Deacon is not one to be pigeonholed by his habits.
First pet: A frog called Terry.
Favorite childhood toy: A brick called Pig, for serious!
Your muse: Katie Grand.
Person alive or dead whom you’d most like to see in one of your designs: Lady Godiva.
Trend you’d like to bring back or start: Measured eccentricity.
Color you can’t resist: Pink.