Making his Italian fashion debut with a reimagining of the Sistine Chapel, Gareth Pugh showcased his designs at Pitti Immagine #79 via a film created by Ruth Hogben. Projected onto the ceiling of Orsanmichele, a 14th-century church, Pugh’s collection, which was inspired by religious iconography and Florentine opulence, melded with the grand traditions and art of the ancient city.
“Basically we’re doing a film like a fresco. So the screen is going to be the ceiling and the idea was to, rather than just bring a new collection, bring the universe, the Gareth Pugh universe, to introduce who I am and what I do to a new audience,” Pugh told Vogue only hours ahead of the grand unveiling.
“The idea is that the audience will stand in a cloud. We’re using the top space in the old building and it’s quite a journey to get up there and it feels very high. This evening we’ve got this smoke so it’s like you’re in a cloud, looking up into this world.”
And Pugh’s world is one of considerable imagination, attention to detail and hard-work. When the designer appeared as part of the Fashion East line-up, back in 2005, he was a solo endeavour with no financial backing and no means of bulk production.
“I do what feels right to me. Back then I didn’t have any worries with regards to making clothes that would sell in shops. When Lulu [Kennedy, founder of Fashion East] asked me to do Fashion East I had just left college and a lot of people present their stuff there when they have factories and production in place. I didn’t do that so ever since I have been playing catch up,” recalls the designer, who has since gone on to open a standalone shop with Hong Kong-based retailer I.T. Group and become a regular fixture on the Paris Fashion Week schedule following his ANDAM award win in 2008.
He added, “You have to remember, when I’m showing in Paris I’m showing next to people like Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent and huge houses that obviously have teams and teams and armies of people to do things for them.”
But teams and teams and armies of people aren’t really what Pugh would want anyway, preferring instead to maintain control of his vision, something which is very important to him and through which he finds film to be a perfect outlet.
“For me it [film] brings back control. With a live show you only have a certain amount of control over what you do. When models go out they can fall over, photographers can take bad pictures, the models can have their eyes closed, the outfit could be blowing some weird way that looks awful and obviously those pictures of my work or my show define me as a designer for the next six months. If those pictures are awful, I’m not going to be very happy,” says Pugh, noting an instance in which a catwalk look was lost due to a wardrobe malfunction where an intern mixed up the outfit. “But shit happens,” he levels.