Back in 2005, Gareth Pugh was living in a squat in London when all the important UK fashion magazines attached themselves to him like a Fred Perry-clad tumor. Fresh out of fashion school and an internship with Rick Owens, he was soon a style-page wank fantasy, representative of the type of hijinks English fashion clamors for. It was all justified.
Gareth’s first shows featured inflatable outfits and light-strewn garments. Everyone in attendance over the age of 30 offered mealy-mouthed praise—like it was all very well and fun and diverting but ultimately fey and immature. Attendees under the age of 25, however, cheered the models and clothes down the runway, feeling like somebody had finally reinvented fashion for the 21st century and rescued us all from retro regurgitation.
Six years on, fashion sites are overflowing with photos of androgynous kids addicted to black who look just like Pugh. His line garners the type of attention and praise usually reserved for the vaunted and dusty old guard. He shows annually in Paris and New York, working and hanging out with all the ritziest fashion people, like Karl Lagerfeld and Mario Testino. We’ve known him for a while, though, so we persuaded him to take a few minutes for the following little chat.
Vice: Everyone says you’re super-weird.
Gareth Pugh: Really?
Yeah. The artist Matthew Stone said that what people don’t understand is that you don’t think your lifestyle and work are weird because you’re so genuinely weird.
I don’t think about it. If I did I’d spend too much time not doing work. PJ Harvey recently said the same thing on TV—it wasn’t until two years after she wrote her songs that she understood them. What I do is more than just the clothes. It’s getting out whatever is inside that’s screaming the loudest. I wouldn’t call it therapeutic. It’s not that conscious.
It’s effective, though, whatever you’re doing. You’ve made it through quite a few tough times.
Yeah, for years my parents never really got it. They didn’t understand what I was doing in London—why I didn’t have a job and why I was doing all this stuff for free and going out so much. But if I hadn’t done all of that I wouldn’t be here.
Did you spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not it would work out?
No, I was just happy doing it. I wasn’t worried about what was next. There was a point a couple of years ago, right before a show, when I barely had enough money to get my team over to Paris. But I think it’s like Alcoholics Anonymous: Take every day as it comes.
How long did it take for you to sell something?
We didn’t sell anything from the poodle or gimp shows—nothing until the fourth or fifth show. My first show was such a last-minute thing. I was only really thinking about the show and not selling stuff afterward. But once you start showing, you’re on the treadmill and have to carry on.
Is that where your head’s at right now?
At the moment I feel very much between a rock and a hard place. People expect an amazing show, but in order to do that in Paris you have to sell a lot of clothes, which maybe means people have to be able to imagine the clothes on hangers.