Passionate, dark, brooding, bloody and soul-baring, that was Gareth Pugh’s take on English history at LFW, as models stormed menacingly across our vision. With red, cross-smeared faces and dressed like a starless night, they strode, in black leather breastplates and full-body bearskins, in the wide skirts and widow’s peaks of Elizabethan times.
There was a fetish feel throughout, with shiny spike-covered jackets and extra-tall black boots. There were allusions, I felt to kimonos, padded and belted and super-sized, then suddenly a swing back to medieval times.
I saw woman as centaur, with a golden pony’s tail being swung from side to side, just like a horse’s, with military hats and high shoulder-collars which dwarfed the face. I saw the proud posture of privilege and the ragged urchin crop of a Cromwellian conscript.
I half expected an ink-clad Sir Francis Drake to throw his cloak over an imaginary puddle, but this England was no place for a weaker sex, these were full-blooded women, powerful, potent and scary as heck.
The bloody cross painted on each face encompassed the eyes, making the whites pop, wild and intense, like a horse in battle, shying from the clamour, or a soldier, in the reckless heat of the moment. It was intense and shocking and gorgeous and was held in balance by one too-slim girl, her face hidden in the shadow of her helmet, her delicate ribs thrust into view as she marched bare-chested, carrying a huge pole with the red flag of triumph. One solitary nipple on show called out the fragility of human life and the bravery of England, with its gory, hard-won history. Gareth Pugh asks us to recall its tumultuous triumphs and hidden secrets, its litany of kings and queens, heroes and others, the vain, the infamous and the glorious.
This was drama, passion and the loud cries of those who went before.
Gareth Pugh. Oh England.
Photograph: Gareth Pugh © Dan Sims, British Fashion Council (With Permission, British Fashion Council)