[G]areth Pugh described the world as “on the precipice” of anarchy in his AW17 show notes. And, whilst a slow-burning sense doom has been a pre-occupation of multiple designers over recent seasons, Pugh presented a more thoughtful take on our descent into societal oblivion, and even found time to reference controversial Nazi-themed S&M film The Night Porter in the process.
Hosted in a circular concrete space, accessed via narrow staircase in north London, Pugh’s show was a masterwork of deep, dark, disturbing theatre. Chants of “Build the wall” and “Money makes the world go round” reverberated through the room over snippets of works from Hendrix and Nirvana. Misguided populist slogans clashed with subculture anthems from the off.
The came Erin O’Connor, hands on hips in a black leather trench coat. An underground dominatrix leading a procession of “activists, artists and outliers” whose outfits channelled the sadomasochistic pseudo-Nazi vibes of The Night Porter. Peak caps, armbands, gloves and black braces, jailer’s key sets and deep, giant black bug eyes by Val Garland completed Pugh’s image of dystopian, sex-dungeon, Nazi-themed chic. A worrying reflection of our times. Controversial? Definitely. Defiantly brilliant? Absolutely.