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August 21 2014

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Tim Blanks On Gareth Pugh’s Pitti Uomo Womenswear Show

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Gareth Pugh

Gareth Pugh

Gareth and Ruth have done it again! Designer Pugh and filmmaker Hogben are such intuitive and iconoclastic collaborators that they’re managing to rewrite the book on the way a collection of clothes can be presented to the world. And Pitti Immagine gave them a stunning platform. Florence is full of breathtaking Renaissance venues, which the duo spent days exploring. Ruth loved the secret church built by monks with a fresco of the Last Supper painted by Michelangelo’s teacher, but she felt it would be sacrilege to stage a fashion event there. So they settled on a soaring space in the very heart of the city, with a checkered history that dates back seven centuries. It’s been variously a factory and a church. Now it’s home to a group of statues representing the patron saints of Florence’s ancient craft and trade guilds, who stood stone-faced while Pugh’s huge, multifaceted metal cube rotated slowly above them, refracting light as though we were all underwater. For one night, the Orsanmichele became a twenty-first-century Sistine Chapel, as Hogben’s film of Pugh’s exclusive Pitti collection was projected, techno-fresco-like, on the ceiling.

Pitti’s invitation gave Pugh the opportunity to create a collection without thought of commercial considerations. Presenting them on film meant he was able to pursue ideas that wouldn’t necessarily work on a catwalk, although some of them will be developed in his upcoming Fall collection. The elongated pantsuit is already a Pugh signature; the “stealth bomber” dress embodied his appetite for fashion geometry; and the inflatable pieces are also part of the balloon-loving designer’s heritage. But after the screening, he disappointingly insisted the spectacular metallic gold pieces would be a one-time-only effort. And if—for (almost) the first time—the designer introduced color with a blue the shade of a frescoed sky, that too would likely be toned down in his next collection.

Gold and celestial blue are, of course, Renaissance staples, and they reflected the influence Florence had on Pugh and Hogben as they plotted their presentation. To the tune of a Matthew Stone soundtrack (surprisingly lyrical, though Stone claimed the blitzkrieg rock of Rammstein as an influence), the film plotted an eight-minute trajectory of spiritual rebirth, opening in darkness with model Natasa Vojnovic an angry archangel haranguing the audience from on high, and ending in serene white light with a tangle of heavenly bodies. If the painted ceilings of Renaissance interiors were intended as simulacra of Paradise, Pugh and Hogben came pretty close to inspiring appropriate amounts of shock and awe.

Photos: Tommy Ton; Courtesy of Pitti W

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