Transcendent Design, Gareth Pugh

Into The Mystic With The Gatekeeper of Alternative Fashion

Gareth Pugh is arguably the most significant avant-garde London- based designer working today. The Central Saint Martins alumni par excellence is the logical successor to Alexander McQueen, also favoring the abstract, gender- fluid, quasi-political representations of extreme individuality over the temptation to succumb to the ever present pressure to create a watered-down fast-fashion line. In this full extract from his interview in the second edition of Author, the ever-modest designer invites us into his East London studio to discuss staying true to your vision and how a concept from Spanish folklore can elevate creatives into a temporal moment of aesthetic perfection.

“We don’t do things as contrived as like, make little season plans and sort of go, ‘This is what we’re going to do!’. It’s much more about breathing it, and feeling what you want to do. It’s about finding those intangible things that give you that moment of clarity; maybe it’s something that you’ve always seen but never really appreciated or something you’ve always known but never quite understood. It’s like looking for the ‘duende’ of Spanish folklore. In one sense, the duende is like a little kind of mythical goblin, but in flamenco, it’s the guitarist or the dancer achieving this trance state, which means having that connection with the audience that transcends emotion. It’s like pure artistry in its finest incarnation, where they’re actually being embodied by something that’s greater than they are, and it’s sort of a vessel to communicate that to the audience. Everybody who creates wants to sort of achieve that, because it’s so fleeting and so temporal, and you always want more of it precisely because it’s not present. I guess you should never really be satisfied with what you do because as someone who wants to make things, if you achieve that nirvana of doing something perfect, if you do actually reach duende and create that perfect thing, then why try and sully that vibe by doing something else? It’s really a sadistic way of working, in that you’re always searching for this thing you know is never going to be quite achievable. “We don’t make any money from the things we make here but, for me, it’s never really been about making money. It’s about the work and what we put forward, and about the image being the thing that defines you, and having that valued more than however many crappy little mini dresses you sell, or whatever. I feel very connected to that side of things with regard to rolling your sleeves up and doing things because it feels right, rather than thinking ‘how am I going to sell it?’. Fashion feels quite dirty at the moment. It doesn’t feel like it’s got a lot of genuineness about it. I tend to feel some sort of synergy with punk, or an affinity with that idea of doing things yourself. That sort of thing feels very genuine and feels very essential, and I guess it’s a choice to do that. It’s really important for me to maintain that level of investment in what I do. For me, punk is about the amount of effort we put in.”

Interview by JOHN-PAUL PRYOR

Pictures by Jonathan Mahaut