The film that Gareth Pugh presented for SS18 in lieu of the traditional fashion show was based on the concept of duende, a term coined by Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca in1933 that refers to those moments in artistic activity when something else takes over, when something speaks through you.
Duende isn’t everyday “inspiration”, but rather something that rises up from the lowest depths of the body and the groin, from the darkness. In fact, Lorca stated in an essay: “Those dark sounds are the mystery, the roots that cling to the mire that we all know, that we all ignore, but from which comes the very substance of art.”
And Pugh is no stranger to dark. As is customary of any designer that inhabits the avant-garde space, it’s a topic he has explored for many seasons, and with this film, it seems that he has come to a point of culmination. Directed by photographer and film-maker Nick Knight in collaboration with SHOWstudio, the production begins with two men in business suits who quickly get up to some menacing activity, disfiguring and moulding each other into increasingly uglier versions of themselves. Amid flashes of the collection, classic Pugh silhouettes in an arresting red and glossy black wearable works of art, various dark scenes ensue that depict the push and pull and ups and downs of creation. A formidable male ballet dancer plies to perfection before he comes crashing down. A fire breaks out and destroys. At the end, all of the chaos and sorcery gives way to a sort of rebirth, and we see clearer glimpses of the collection’s strongest pieces – a metallic gold sheet story in which the models are wearing a type of sleek stylized armour.
The collection was one of the most refined and complete we have seen from Pugh in recent seasons. And the film was an honest depiction of the depth of feeling behind the work of a fashion designer, or any creative for that matter, and begs the question, why does duende – the force of creativity - seem to particularly dwell within the damaged? Why is it that it's mostly out of moments of brokenness that we create art that really reaches others? Perhaps it is only when you’re pushed to the furthest limits of your consciousness that you can deliver your best material. Perhaps it is a natural process – which is something that Pugh may have also had on his mind as yesterday also happened to be the night of his wedding to long-time partner Carson McColl.
Either way, Pugh reminded us this season that whether in creativity, relationships, or maybe even within the fashion industry itself, cycles are mandatory. Often, the storms, the ugliness and the dark stuff needs to precede the good stuff. The stuff that’s really golden.
Watch Gareth Pugh SS18 here: