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Class of 2018: Gareth Pugh – Sunderland’s fashion guru

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Published on 04 July 2018

Gareth Pugh celebrates at the Stadium of Light
Gareth Pugh celebrates at the Stadium of Light

During the past 15 years, Gareth Pugh’s work has graced the catwalks of the world, the big screen, international ballets and stage shows.

Not bad for a lad from Grangetown in Sunderland.

Now, Gareth has returned to Wearside to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Sunderland.

Gareth said: "Being invited to come back home where all my family still live, is such an amazing honour for me. Family is one of the most important things that anyone can have, they help ground you. It’s that idea of knowing someone always has your back and that you have the support that you have when you need it.

“My mum has a lot of sisters, and they were very strong female role models, so this was very good schooling for me. I guess now in my own work I always think of them in a lot of the clothes that we design, which I create almost as modern armour. It’s that idea of arming women with the necessary tools in order to own that space they want to live in.

“To be honoured by The University of Sunderland has made this an incredibly special day."

It was his mum’s old sewing machine that Gareth used to make the clothes for his finals at Central St Martin’s, in London, for his Womenswear BA Fashion in 2003.

A look from his graduate collection soon featured on the cover of Dazed & Confused magazine and within two years his work appeared at London Fashion Week as part of the Fashion East group show.

Two years later his first solo show in London was seen and admired by Vogueeditor Anna Wintour and he was invited to be part of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Fashion-In-Motion series. He won the prestigious French ANDAM Fashion Award in 2008, leading to his first show in Paris, where he presented his collections for the next seven years.

Gareth’s clothes have been described as wearable sculptures and he continues to surprise both fans and critics.

For his latest Spring Collection of he replaced a traditional catwalk with a film collaboration with the celebrated image-maker Nick Knight. Vogue magazine reported on his “impressive” sculptural coats, column gowns and extraordinary “metallic looks”, which did the “nowadays vanishingly rare thing in fashion of positing a vision of style’s future.”

This week, the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle opens an exhibition “Catwalking” of pictures by the Tyneside-born fashion photographer Chris Moore, which showcases garments by Gareth and other designers.  

Meanwhile, over in New York, Gareth’s work currently features in the Costume Institute’s summer exhibition ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He is currently working on several upcoming projects, including a major collaboration with the New York City Ballet for September, as well as his show at London Fashion Week.

Graduation ceremonies from the University of Sunderland are happening this week and Monday, 9 July and Tuesday, 10 July.