Gareth Pugh Autumn/Winter 2016-17

Commonly associated with the infamous fraternal secret society, the arrival of each Fashion Week sees Covent Garden’s Freemason’s Hall moonlighting as a location for numerous shows. Utilising the edifice to it’s full potential was Gareth Pugh, casting an altar to fusty patriarchal might as the backdrop to a collection resplendent in femininity at its most raw, powerful, sexy and sinister.

With dramatically tailored outer garments, broad and angular at the shoulder and cinched at the waist, accompanying skirts and extravagantly flared trousers, a Mugler inspired attitude to female sartorial empowerment was strongly alluded to. Dresses took on a similar silhouette, often mimicking the angularity of the coats with pointed busts. The range of materials spanned rugged shearlings, leathers in finishes both buttery and matte, stuffy Glen plaids, and gently shimmering satins, while the palette was a familiar one for Pugh, mostly blacks, greys, camels and creams, save for the blocks of dazzling royal blue shading suits, coats and dresses alike.

Motifs and symbols both politicised and satirised, with elastic threads drawn across models faces, dramatically enhancing their cheekbones and calling the designer’s distortion of the female form across his work to mind. While certainly among the most memorable beauty looks of this London Fashion Week, a proud picture of intimidatingly fearless femininity, it would also appear that the extent to which supposedly empowered dress necessitates gratuitous accentuation and masculinisation was also highlighted and subtly ribbed.Gareth Pugh AW16 4

Royal blue jackets and halos were spangled with gleaming white stars in what could perhaps clumsily be read as a bold Clinton endorsement ahead of her potentially imminent showdown against the patrons of the old guard, while models carried briefcases to which they their hands were cuffed: a protest against the dependency of a contemporary woman’s success on her shackling herself to traditional male codes? Again, perhaps. But it seems that one should be cautious in attributing objective commentaries to the symbols that Pugh employs in his work, with each distinctly layered. In the case of the handcuff, for example, it would be a discredit to ignore hints at the salacity that continually crops up in his collections. And not least in this one, with one look featuring a model clad in a figure-hugging black leather dress, a cropped shearling jacket, full-length leather gloves, topped off with a Hannibal Lecter mask.

All images via WWD