Today, in his fourth year on the Paris catwalk, it felt like London-based designer Gareth Pugh completed his metamorphosis into a fully fledged, top-flight European designer. His linear graphic style—you can have any color as long as it's black, white, or gray—was given a softer, more deeply romantic edge than usual, and featured an extended shock of scarlet amongst his more characteristic color palette.
But let's not get too soppy too soon. That profondo rosso moment was more blood-red than be-my-valentine, and the collection's long, trailing trouser hems and extended, trainlike sleeves actually owed a debt to cockfighting. "The process and the preening of the birds is kind of like women going to a spa," observed Pugh backstage after his show. The trailing tendrils of material turned out to be the replacement for carefully groomed feathers, and the metal-spike-heeled shoes were stand-ins for the claw at the back of a fighting cock's leg. There was also a debt to the beauty and violence of flamenco—witness the giant mantilla headdress of the opening look, and the Spanish version of Roy Orbison's "Crying" from Mulholland Drive as the main soundtrack for the show. And then, of course, there was the fast-becoming-ubiquitous Japonisme—although it's a familiar trope from the designer's earlier work.
There was a feeling of the surreal to this show, in terms of the old-fashioned René Magritte sense, and there were those same kind of veils worn: It's what Breton might have referred to as "convulsive beauty." The collection also made perfect sense on the most mundane of levels—those Edwardian-style button-backed blouses could easily sell and sell, and Pugh's production standards are second to none. Yet in Gareth Pugh's metamorphosis, you can't help but miss a little of the giddy London fun of his earlier shows and collections. But that may be part of the nature of Paris itself—the big stage where you fully embrace the pact with the dream of fashion. It's not to be taken lightly, and today it seemed like Pugh had made the pledge.