As the In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion exhibition launches at the Queen’s Gallery this week, the designer Gareth Pugh has been speaking of how the period has shaped his work.
Speaking to the exhibition’s curator, Anna Reynolds, Pugh describes how he first became transfixed by Tudor fashions when his mother took him to the Tower of London to avoid having to attend a football match with his father at Wembley. There Gareth brought an Elizabethan paper dolls book and the seed of inspiration was sewn.
Whilst Pugh is highly inpsired by the culture of extreme clubbing, his trademark visuals of oversized shapes and volume derive largely from his interest in this period of dress. If you delve into the Pugh archives the comparisons are apparent, in his first Paris show for Spring/Summer 2009 Gareth borrowed visuals from the period, including the iconic ruff. Worn by the first lady of girl power herself Elizabeth I, the ruff, Pugh states, ‘makes the model walk in a particular way.’ His interest in adapting movement is something which flows through Gareth’s body of work.
In the rest of this pivotal collection, and throughout his work, Pugh drew on other key elements of Tudor dress: extenuated waists and intricate farthingales. However Pugh takes the ‘cone shape’ style of Tudor dressing to a modern place with the injection of conflicting inspirations and the like of harlequin prints and leather. By engaging with some famous modes of dress, the model, Gareth says ‘presents oneself as an icon,’ in a manner akin to those whose portraits line the Queen’s Gallery for the exhibition.
The original conversation between Gareth Pugh and Anna Reynolds
Even though the relationship between Pugh’s work and this period are obvious and at times literal, the designer doesn’t like to think of his work as ‘historical.’ Instead Pugh almost carries on a long trajectory of power dressing. Pugh describes the Tudor and Stuart dressers as the ‘equivalent of the first power dressers,’ wearing ‘clothing with greater purpose than dressing oneself.’ Pugh’s work continually revisits such an idea, the woman who wears Gareth Pugh is one who is empowered through dress and a symbol of a concept which is greater and more in depth than just wearing another top or skirt.
Pugh continually revisits what he terms as a ‘silhouette of power,’ be it via literal terms of Tudor dress like the ruff or more armoured pieces from his Spring/ Summer 2011 collection. He regularly talks of clothes in terms of armour and his continuing obsession of triangles, seen in the Autumn/Winter 2013 collection and the dominant shapes which make up his almost ‘otherworldly’ clothing all stem from his utter fascination with the Tudor and Stuart period. Even when these inspirations are more diluted and abstracted they are evidently at the very core of his creative thinking.
Check out the gallery above to see the visual links between Gareth’s past collections and the paintings displayed within the exhibition.
In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion runs until 6th October 2013 at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace.