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A hush falls over the crowd as the reverent organ music gives way to suspenseful beats echoing throughout the room. Finally shown in its full glory, the enormous vaulting Freemasons' Hall is poised to be the stage for Gareth Pugh's latest show.
The reverberating rhythm is punctured with Grace Jones' voice seductively greeting the audience: "Pleased to meet you. Pleased to have you on my plate," with a chorus overlaid in the background chanting "A man-eating machine."
What Gareth Pugh's Autumn/Winter 2016 collection lacks in his signature theatrical couture it makes up for in its compelling, thought provoking treatment of largely ordinary office silhouettes. Complimenting office wear with Hannibal Lecter masks, blood red lipstick and impersonal aviator sunglasses, Pugh challenges the dress code we take for granted.
Constantly under the looming gaze of an imposing blase woman in a military jacket with black, flared trousers, Pugh's power bitches marched down the catwalk to the anthem of Matthew Stone's remix of Jones' 'Corporate Cannibal'.
While featuring corporate wear ranging from masculine-cut boxy shouldered suits to more feminine pencil skirts and cinched waists, Pugh's symbolism was resolute, taking full advantage of showcasing his collection in the home of the traditionally all-male fraternal society of the Freemasons'. One of his most political displays to date, Pugh's designs simultaneously affirm and undermine feminity, subverting the wearable symbols of conformity to become daring, iconoclastic and irreverent creations.