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Gareth Pugh


October 07 2011
Fashion

Interview

I’d like to ask you about your relationship with Michele Lamy, muse of Rick Owens. Would it be fair to say that she really discovered you first?

G.P Michèle Lamy really helped me a lot. I left St. Martins a long time ago and I realised very quickly that when you leave St. Martins, nobody is simply going to hand you something. If you want to make something happen, you have to make it happen yourself. I heard that Rick (Owens), with whom I wasn’t too familiar with at the time, had just moved to Paris from LA and was working for Revillon. I got in touch with someone who lead me to Michele, who was interested in doing something. She brought me over to meet her and Rick, she showed me Paris, we spent a few days together and then she brought me back to help with Revillon’s sales at Couture Week. I was dressing models and it was fun. After that I started to show, myself, and I was approached by Lulu Kennedy, who runs {Fashion East, which is a London-based platform that showcases new talent. She asked me to collaborate and Michele always remained very inquisitive about what I was doing: she came to my shows; she helped me with the studio; she was the one who pushed the factory who now produce my clothes to take a risk on me. So she was always involved and pushing for me to do something, to turn what I had into something tangible. She’s very good at translating ideas into something marketable.

Could your describe your professional relationship with Rick Owens?

G.P Both Rick and I produce under a licence and the factory in Italy that produces Rick’s collections also produces mine. They have the licence to produce under our names. Rick’s company owns 25% of my label, the factory owns 24% and I own 51%. Of course, I’m not starting on a small-scale in London. I’m putting on a lot of shows, and then there was the ANDAM as well...

Did winning the ANDAM have a big effect on the label?

G.P It was the first time that I was able to consider coming to Paris to show and that changed a lot of things. It was a shock how quickly that money went. Showing in Paris is very different from showing in London. From a business perspective, that money was very important for me to be in Paris and to show here. It enabled me to make that step.

Where do you live now?

G.P I live in London. My studio is in London. I come to Paris to show and to sell.

Is there a certain market where you do particularly well?

G.P Actually, Italy – last year, Italy accounted for a third of our global sales. It’s odd to me to think that it’s Italy. I would have thought that it would have been Japan maybe. I have a store in Hong Kong, which does well, but Italy is the place which seems to understand. I’m informed that Italy is always first to “get things”, to understand and the first ones to take a risk. And for somebody like me, it is about taking these risks.

What about colour?

G.P Well, it’s never been a big thing for me. This season, for spring/summer 2012, we did purple, because everything was either white or black. I always work with opposites and it was the idea of those two opposites combining. If you think, in a battery for example, where you have a positive and a negative which together produce energy. The idea of this purple was just that. And for me, colour is an idea and it has to fit. Purple is like static electricity. For example, when you take off your tights at night in a dark room and you get that purple flash. It was a little bit like that. So there was a reason behind the purple.

Tell me about the insect influence towards the end of the S/S 12 show, with the head pieces

G.P That wasn’t actually anything to do with insects. It’s Spring/Summer, so it’s kind of “my sunglasses”, in a roundabout way.

What are your next projects?

G.P I have my make-up line with MAC coming out in December. It’s been something that’s been brewing for about three years. It’s a whole range and it’s very exciting. We have a couple of things that aren’t set in stone yet too. For example, I’ve been asked to be involved in a project with the Royal Opera House in London. There’s an amazing choreographer who’s asked me to think about doing costumes and set design for a new ballet, but nothing is definite yet. I also just collaborated with Absolut Vodka. They came to me with the bottle, which was already done, so it was challenging. Rather than working on the bottle, it felt more appropriate to work with its iconic silhouette, because of course as a fashion designer, you work a lot with silhouettes. And I also took it as an opportunity to do something that represented my early career.

So “Absolut Gareth”?

G.P Absolutely!

Interview conducted by Florence Julienne