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Letting your goth flag fly – Gareth Pugh teams with Chrome Hearts

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I move from the body to armor in this post – a recurrent theme, I realize, but apparently also a need that, given the currents of violence, economic scarcity, and unstinting aggression throughout the world, is not likely to abate any time in the foreseeable future.

Although the fashion repertoire of armor, or simply the armour of great style, cannot offer us protection from those determined to do us harm, it delivers a succinct ‘en garde’ visual message: that we won’t and can’t be trifled with; that we withhold favor until it is earned fairly; that, however seriously (or not) we take ourselves, we will protect ourselves; that we have no patience for pettiness of any kind; that although everyone may stand equally in society, they are not all necessarily admitted or even invited to our parties.

Strong shape and geometry offer their own kind of armor, a strength and integrity of pure form. I led off the last post with a reference to Rick Owens, so perhaps it makes sense that I would move on to a kindred design spirit (and to some extent, protégé), Gareth Pugh. The big news – which The Business of Fashion broke with an exclusive (by Lisa Wang) last Tuesday night – is that Pugh will team with L.A.’s own Chrome Hearts to produce a 14-piece collection of co-designed accessories produced here in L.A. under Chrome Hearts’ auspices to be launched next month in the Wonder Room at Selfridges in London. Some of the pieces will be in limited editions owing to cost (e.g., a polished silver bustier, various jackets – which are fairly labour-intensive), so their availability may be limited amongst the line’s 22 stores and specialty department stores that carry the line. But judging from Pugh’s evolution over the last few seasons and Chrome Hearts’ own rock-romance/goth club/motorcycle mojo design DNA (there was more than a bit of goth in his collection for this fall) – to say nothing of Michèle Lamy’s design marriage brokering, it was only a matter of time.

I didn’t write about the Pugh Spring 2014 collection; but it shouldn’t be assumed it had anything to do with Owens stealing the thunder from Pugh’s or any other Paris collection. That Owens made quite literally a bit of ‘thunder’ with that collection was a clear signal of certain trends; but that still left room for a lot of diversity. I mean let’s face it, there are a number of Paris tribes, each with its very distinctive design DNA (e.g., Dior, Chanel, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Givenchy); and any number of other lines with their own core aesthetics. Owens is always pretty strong – his last season’s collection killed; but I actually thought Pugh’s Spring 2014 collection was by far the stronger of the two and possibly one of the most interesting collections of the Paris Fashion Week. There were a few other strong collections. I mentioned Chloé and Dries van Noten in my last post. Others included Valentino, Viktor & Rolf and Giambattista Valli. Akris isn’t for everyone; but it’s worth a look and a second thought. Marc Jacobs was clearly looking to go out on a high note with his last collection for Louis Vuitton, and he did (those spectacular headdresses by Stephen Jones didn’t hurt). There’s always something good in any Chanel collection – we’re talking about Karl Lagerfeld, after all – but it’s dancing in the same ‘team,’ if you catch my drift. With the Dior collection, I felt that Raf Simons was still at the drafting tables, essaying something that has yet to be fully realized. (That it will ultimately ‘get there,’ I have no doubt.)

Pugh’s collection was not necessarily all about body, body movement, bodies in multiple, or bodies in armor, but really compassed most if not all of these themes and motives. In short, Pugh’s collection was all-the-way-there. That the palette opened, however tentatively, beyond the usual range of blacks, whites and steely grays, to aquas and mint tones with a touch of lavender was one indicator. The balance between the austere geometry of overlapping planes of fabric that lay flat against the body and the more volumetric, sculptural silhouettes; between bias-cut and body-skimming gowns and skirts that sinuously complemented and echoed the moving body and jackets and dresses that stood off from the body – were components of a larger sculptural and architectural statement. There was the sense of a body-driven architecture, clothing that teased out our perceptions of bodies as bearers of shape, both abstract and biomorphic. As the biomorphic begins to blur with bionic, these issues seem more and more of the moment. The spirit of Claude Montana was very much ‘in the house’ for that show; but also, I thought, Archipenko, costume designers like Michael Kaplan and Aenne Willkomm; even Louis Kahn. (What do you think?)

Come to think of it, there’s a bit of Viktor & Rolf in that fan-shaped leather jacket with the back embossed and engraved with that very Chrome Hearts tracery Celtic cross. And possibly a bit of Stephen Jones in that feathered pastiche on the tall hussar’s bearskin hats favored by the Queen’s guards (towering black and pastel renditions of the hat appeared in Pugh’s Paris runway show). McQueen would have loved those open-toed ankle booties with the heraldic-dominatrix dagger heels. But that swag-chained coat-cape is pure Pugh. And, as precious as it may sound, maybe a cape and dagger-booties are as good a place as any to begin – reconnecting with ‘street’ and ‘clubs’ at their highest caliber – always an essential part of Chrome Hearts’ design DNA.

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