Why am I not surprised that Cher was front row at Gareth Pugh’s Fall 2013 ready-to-wear collection in Paris?
What struck me straightaway was the purity, even austerity of the line. This wasn’t a luxe goth look; this was a look for debutantes preparing to launch themselves into a Cistercian convent. It’s where Madame Bovary would have gone if she’d finally gotten her fill of provincial finery, given up on her pretentious aspirations and committed herself to finding her inner bride of Frankenstein (or the French equivalent). ‘Go ahead and pass me by, Chevalier; I’m really not going to need you where I’m going.’
Of course that hypothetical horseman might have done just that, depending upon whether he caught a glimpse of some of the all-over ripped-up and feathered leather or plastic coats and skirts or dresses (and hats!); on a dark night they might easily be mistaken for topiary hedges.
There was a heightened emphasis on the head and neckline, with neck and clavicle squared off by collars or lapels. The overall silhouette was an elongated head-to-toe A-line, with a few notable exceptions. Some coats and dresses or tops and skirts seemed to break the silhouette into double-lampshade proportions. Skirts were full overall, occasionally with some degree of graduation, some in tiers. Many of the coats were a kind of double-breasted cutaway, not infrequently in leather, but also in heavy silks, what looked like wool or cashmere or sueded fabrics. Regardless of the neckline – which was sometimes without apparent emphasis – a jewel-neck or a slightly clerical (or even a Nehru!) collar – or the overall line, the looks all brought the focus back to head and shoulders. In that respect (especially in some of the jackets) I couldn’t help but be reminded of the ground-breaking designs of Claude Montana. There was some talk a few years back of his reviving his design work (though possibly under another name). Given the triumph and tragedy of his couture venture with Lanvin, that may never happen; but his influence endures.
Some of the squared-off portrait-bust style jackets – in black, white, slate and French blue tones, in a mix of leathers and other fabrics were truly spectacular. And I could easily see wearing some of these squared-off jackets with straight leg trousers or jeans and/or a nice little boot. Pugh came into his own with the more asymmetrically draped jackets, blousons and gowns – although some of the one sleeved blousons had a kind of recycled-tablecloth effect. (But hey – anything wrong with up-cycling?)
An alternative, though equally austere, current that ran through the collection echoed a kind of sarwhal khameez style (those Nehru collars), or perhaps a variation of what Prada showed last season – but not exactly the same kind of ‘ease,’ an emphasis on elegance of detail and subtle articulation, with slashed sleeves and tailored pants, and beautiful bare branch detailing.
But then what to make of those torn and frayed coats and gowns in anthracite leather? vinyl? plastic? (A novice’s final initiation?) The New York Times’ Eric Wilson tweeted that some front row editors were grabbing at the fabrics to see if they might actually be plastic garbage bags! (Gee, why didn’t David Russell put Bradley Cooper into something like that for Silver Linings Playbook?) You think I’m exaggerating? Go ahead and have a look. I sort of loved them anyway.
I could easily see Cher in some of the leather coats – including a beautiful double-breasted one with ribbed lapels and border and sleeves. An elongated, caped tunic (with pants) in French blue reminded me a bit of the slate-blue Lanvin dress Emanuelle Riva wore to the Oscar ceremony on Sunday. Some of these outfits might have worked for Dior spokes-star Charlize Theron in her role as the wicked Queen Ravenna in last summer’s Snow White and the Huntsman.
Can you still have romance with austerity? Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, indeed. Héloïse might easily set aside her thoughts of Abélard – following Cher as a Dark Mother Superior down premiere red carpet, fashion runway, or abbey nave. This is one convent I wouldn’t mind visiting.