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The BoF Podcast: Gareth Pugh on Returning to Fashion in Extraordinary Times

The British designer tells Tim Blanks about his latest creative endeavour, a documentary about creating his first collection in two years.

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LONDON, United Kingdom — Acclaimed designer Gareth Pugh showed his last collection in September 2018. Two years on, he has returned to the industry at a time of global tumult. Its effects are clearly reflected in "The Reconstruction," a documentary made by Pugh, his husband Carson McColl and Showstudio director Nick Knight showcasing 13 new designs and the inspiration behind them.

“This project really has been born out of some insane historical moments,” said Pugh. “Twenty-twenty’s been a shitty year and so much has gone on,” he continued, adding he would be remiss “not to look it in the face and acknowledge its presence.”

  • No stranger to the medium, Pugh has previously released films of his designs in lieu of a fashion show, and in 2019 made a documentary with McColl about the fight for LGBTQ+ rights across the UK. In the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, Pugh discussed what the current state of the industry means for young designers, and how he considers film to be a medium loaded with potential depth. The "new normal" can also mean opportunities. "The playing field is now level; you don't have that established way of having to do things. like young designers being forced into this idea that 'we have to spend a load of money doing a show,'" said Pugh. "You never had to do that anyway, but now more than ever you really don't."
  • For many designers, film has been the go-to medium in the absence of in-person fashion shows, but it presents its own challenges. "Once you have that physical exchange taken away, you have that hole, that vacuum that you need to fill," said Pugh. That said, alternative art forms allow for a more profound exploration of themes. "In a [fashion] show context it's very difficult to dig down deep… simply because you've got this tennis match-esque way of presenting things," he added.
  • "The Reconstruction" is a meditation on permanence, longevity and wider political significance as it pertains to creativity — from the "monumental" looks showcased in the film, to an entire section documenting the Black Lives Matter movement and activism of trans women of colour. "Wanting to build something really febrile and really temporal doesn't sit with me," said Pugh, admitting that he "never did very well with playing that commercial game" as a designer. "Fashion for me is part of the wider cultural conversation and does link to so many things we are part of… [It] doesn't exist within a vacuum."

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