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Gareth Pugh – Incredible designers

September 15, 2017

You could see that most of the club kids from the early 2000s were wildly talented – dressed in crazily original ways with unexpected makeup schemes and a predilection for electroclash music and ironic neon, many went on to become well-known jewellery designers, club promoters, bands, set designers, costume designers and makeup artists. Some, like Gareth Pugh, (born 1981) went on to become internationally renowned fashion designers.


Mind you, Gareth Pugh was a designer already. The South London squat (called the Co-Op for its ambitions and because it literally had a big Co-Op sign on the front) where he lived was famous among the crowd for housing the Wow-Wow collective. Its members, which included Pugh, artist Matthew Stone, and various performance artists and other creatives, had taken over the huge former nightclub and converted various rooms into sewing studios, performance spaces, artist’s studios, party rooms and, perhaps surprisingly, a gym.

Gareth Pugh and the Wow-Wows

The idea of the collective was that creatives could live in symbiosis and support each other’s endeavours. Pugh was entirely in tune when he drew on the pool of creatives living there and other friends to assist in putting together early collections, styling, makeup and sets for catwalk shows, as well as modelling for the catwalks. Some of his friends had real ambitions to become professional models, and though excited at this opportunity, were disappointed to find themselves with head and body covered in bulbous shapes. Not the glamorous entree they had dreamed of.


The artist himself affected the ubiquitous asymmetric hairstyle, black eyeliner and skinny jeans of the crowd when off duty, and when partying, glitter makeup was customary.


Pugh came from Sunderland originally and worked as a costume designer for The National Youth Theatre at the age of 14. Later he had the chance to intern with Rick Owens in Paris.

Shocking Designs

He graduated from Central St Martins in 2003 whilst living at the Co-Op and his early collections consisted of shocking designs in materials like rubber, PVC, and plastics – usually in black or black and white and often inflatable. The shapes were very non-traditional too, many looking more like stacks of black beach balls or other geometric shapes than clothes. Yet, Pugh really could cut and away from these headline grabbers created very wearable tailoring in more acceptable fabrics like leather and fine wool. They were still all in black, naturally.


His graduate collection was featured on the cover of Dazed and Confused magazine, and he held his first catwalk show at club kid’s favourite Kash Point’s Alternative Fashion Week. Around the same time he was also chosen to feature in a reality TV show called The Fashion House, an experience which he said he found “horrible”.

A Fashion East Protegee

Gareth Pugh’s 2005 collection was sponsored by Fashion East, the company which nurtures young and promising talent. They showed him alongside several other young designers from their stable at London Fashion Week AW 2005. He put the collection together in just four weeks from his base at the Co-Op and with the assistance of his loyal Wow-Wow friends, and it was a big success.


His first proper solo show was at London Fashion Week AW 2006 in conjunction with On|Off and NEWGEN sponsorship. Since then he has shown at every single London Fashion Week season, and his creativity has always evolved. He sticks mostly to black and white and sculptural shapes, so much so that fashion writers get incredibly excited at any glimpse of, say, turquoise or blush pink from him, and bias cuts or natural makeup schemes confuse the hell out of them. On the whole his makeup is still solidly club kid (some say drag queen but it’s more abstract than that) and his clothes rather menacing.

Gareth Pugh – Influences

Those looking for influences for Gareth Pugh quote Klaus Nomi, Leigh Bowery, and even Boy George, stalwart of his own club scene of the Eighties. This isn’t right – Leigh Bowery did like a great deal of PVC and rubber and strange face paints, but Pugh’s influence comes from his own history and milieu. He can be compared to Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood in that they all have that theatricality and original creativity, yet I wouldn’t say he was directly influenced by any of those designers either. Rather, an extremely young Theo Adams, Dominic Jones and puking Milly Brown.


These creatives, along with the Wow-Wow collective, have since gone their separate ways (hastened by the eviction of the Co-Op and its eventual demolition). But Nick Night, the high fashion photographer and originator of SHOWStudio is also a big fan of many of them, and they are showcased in Show Studio projects more often than not. Gareth Pugh himself has been featured there many times. When he showed in Paris Fashion week SS 2006, Pugh publicised it by staging a series of live performances on SHOWstudio entitled Fash Off.

Gareth Pugh – Stocked in luxury boutiques

Although it may seem that Gareth Pugh’s outfits are more fantasy than office wear, when stripped down they are extremely wearable, and available in many places online as well as in luxury department stores like Liberty and the famed London boutique Browns Focus.


Stars like Kylie Minogue and Beth Ditto have allowed him to let the fantasy element out in costumes for their tours. Other fans include fashion gods Daphne Guinness and Anna Dello Russo.


Gareth Pugh has designed interiors for Moet at various fashion events. He was part of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Fashion In Motion showcase in 2007, and in 2008 he modelled for American Vogue alongside Agyness Deyn. He was featured in Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy the same year at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Gareth Pugh – Award Winning Designer

2008 also saw the designer win the prestigious ANDAM award, worth 150,00 euros. He opened his first standalone store in a prestigious location in Hong Kong in 2010. In 2011, Gareth Pugh was the featured designer at Italian fashion trade show Pitti, choosing to show a special collection via video installation. The designer particularly likes presenting work via video. Most recently on his web page is a mysterious video teaser for his upcoming collection, apparently inspired by the equally strange TV series, Twin Peaks.