The buildup to the Gareth Pugh show had all the ingredients of the legendary British fashion happenings of the eighties and nineties: heaving tent packed with club kids and drag queens; major international editors present and correct; 80-minute wait just to get everyone steamed up. Part anticipation, part exasperation, it's a buzz that only descends when London's on, and Pugh's rubber-masked, cyber-freaky, balloon-bouncing theater is largely responsible for bringing back the excitement in this city. Without his ever having sold a stitch.
This time, though, he had a shock lined up: a collection of outstandingly constructed black and black-and-white coats, some in fur, intricately pieced together in contrasting stripes. "I was sick of people saying, 'It's crazy,' " said Pugh, backstage. As a designer, he's already established an influential shapeall those big, swathed, cowl-like necklines others are picking up on. Now he's working up exaggeratedly built-out shoulders he likens to The Wicker Man. Again, these look certain to be directional.
What really surprised, though, were the fur pieceslike a generously easy belted cardigan with a hood, and a black-and-white striped wrap-front short coat, and, later, a couple of chunky knitted coats banded in patent stripes. Any of these would attract envy rather than ridicule in the street. As for the stylingyou still have to ignore the hair and makeup, and overlook the creepy section of see-through plastic stripes. Those were crowd-pleasers for Pugh's club-claque, but otherwise the boy is showing promising signs of outgrowing the thrill of being poor and mocked. "I'm working with Kopenhagen Fur and having the coats made in Italy," he confided. "And La Perla is making my stockings." Which is quite a development for Pugh's detractors to mull at leisure.