|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (November 2009)|
Pugh in 2007
31 August 1981 |
Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, England
At 14, Pugh began working as a costume designer for the National Youth Theatre. He started his fashion education at City of Sunderland College and finished his degree in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins in 2003. He interned with Rick Owens in Paris. His final collection at St. Martins, which used balloons to accentuate models' joints and limbs (a technique that would become one of his trademarks), attracted the attention of the senior fashion editor of Dazed & Confused magazine, who placed one of his designs on the magazine's cover shortly thereafter.
Pugh was selected to participate in British reality show The Fashion House two months after his graduation, which he would later call "horrible" and his "only other option [to being on] the dole." The rise of !WOWOW!, a feature in Dazed & Confused, and a debut show at London club Kashpoint's Alternative Fashion Week brought Pugh to the attention of Fashion East "London's breeding ground for cutting-edge new talent," leading them to invite Pugh to participate in its Autumn 2005 group show. Pugh had only four weeks, with no studio, no assistants, and little money, to create the collection. His collection ended up a critical success and attracted significant attention to his designs.
Pugh's solo premiere was in London's Fall 2006 fashion week; he has since showed his Spring 2007 and Autumn 2007 collections there. Pugh's shows have continued to draw critical praise. British Vogue, for instance, called his Spring 2007 collection "an incredible, unmissable show" and said that "his genius is undeniable." Anna Wintour is a notable supporter of Pugh's designs.
Kylie Minogue has used many of Pugh's designs over the recent years, most famously in her Showgirl - The Greatest Hits Tour and Showgirl - The Homecoming Tour. Róisín Murphy recently appeared flamboyantly sporting one of Pugh's distinctive outfits in the videoclip promoting her 2007 album Overpowered , and on the cover of her single Let Me Know, and on other occasions. Minogue has been seen wearing the same dress in her 2008 video for her single In My Arms. Beyoncé wore Pugh at the MTV Europe Awards in 2008, and for her Diva video. Singer Lady Gaga wore a jacket designed by Pugh at the Wango Tango concert in 2009, another piece on X Factor and most recently to her ARTPOP premier at ArtRave. Ashlee Simpson wore a leather and clear plastic striped Gareth Pugh dress in her video "Outta My Head."
In 2014, the fashion journalist and stylist Katie Grand was invited by the Fashion Museum, Bath, to select an outfit to represent that year in their Dress of the Year collection. She chose one of Gareth Pugh's ensembles, a wrapped outfit in calico and plastic sheeting.
Style.com describes Pugh as the "latest addition to a long tradition of fashion-as-performance-art that stretches back through Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Vivienne Westwood to the eighties club culture of Leigh Bowery." (Pugh, however, dismisses frequent Bowery comparisons as "lazy journalism.") Klaus Nomi has also been suggested as an influence on Pugh. Pugh's collections are autobiographical rather than referential, and draw inspiration from Britain's extreme club scene. Pugh's trademark is his experimentation with form and volume. He often uses "nonsensically shaped, wearable sculptures" to "distort the human body almost beyond recognition." Elements in his designs include PVC inflated into voluminous coats, black and white patchwork squares, Perspex discs linked like chain mail, and shiny latex masks and leggings; he has used materials including mink, parachute silk, foam footballs, afro-weave synthetic hair, and electrically charged plastic in his clothing. Pugh describes his designs as being "about the struggle between lightness and darkness."
Though he has received significant acclaim in contemporary fashion circles, Pugh claimed in March 2007 that he had yet to sell a single dress and that he struggled to make ends meet. (Until his Spring 2007 collection, his clothes were solely catwalk experiments and simply unavailable to purchase.) While constructing his autumn 2005 debut collection, shown in the Fashion East group show, he was squatting in a converted warehouse. (A court order ultimately forced him to leave the building.) He says his current studio is unheated and has only two electrical outlets. It remains to be seen whether Pugh can be a commercial success as well as a critical one, but he is slowly shifting to more wearable clothing in his runway shows and he has partnered with Rick Owens and Michele Lamy, who hold a 49% interest in Gareth Pugh's firm. The husband and wife team now fund all of Pugh's collection development, production and marketing activities.
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