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English designer Pugh stuns NY with immersive art

© Getty/AFP | Dancers perform at the Lexus Design Disrupted: Gareth Pugh presentation during MADE Fashion Spring 2015, at Pier 36 in New York, on September 4, 2014Dancers perform at the Lexus Design Disrupted: Gareth Pugh presentation during MADE Fashion Spring 2015, at Pier 36 in New York, on September 4, 2014

Critically acclaimed English designer Gareth Pugh promised New York Fashion Week a different experience and outdid himself with a startlingly innovative show light years from the traditional runway.

There was no model in the flesh. There was no runway and nobody strutted down the catwalk, there was just a giant warehouse and a series of video screens.

Foregoing Paris to unveil a collection in New York for the first time, the 33-year-old Brit promised "a live immersive fashion experience harnessing design, performance and technology."

Behind the housing projects of Chinatown, he chose as his location a giant Manhattan warehouse in South Street near the East River.

Eight video screens were mounted in a round space. A little further away was another wall of video of menacing clouds, which at times disappeared behind an artificial haze. Still further away was another video wall.

The audience waited without quite knowing for what, taking advantage of a free bar. Waiters passed through with mini falafels.

New York actress Sarah Jessica Parker disappeared behind a black curtain.

Then suddenly Thursday's show began.

On the eight screens appeared and melted away gothic and puppet-style figures, huge black and white hats, other headwear and bodies covered entirely in black and white stripes with huge horns in quick kaleidoscope.

That ended act one. The crowd moved to a second screen.

-Obsession with British folklore-

Then came the third act. There were more dancers on the largest screen and on the floor. There was a tribal dance, hell or heaven, no one knew.

On the screen a phoenix-like Messiah figure rose up, dressed in white.

Cries, claps and that was it.

"Oh my God, this is stunning," murmured one bewitched spectator.

For those wanting to understand, a short note from Pugh was handed out.

"I have always been interested in movement and dance, and this interest has been the basis for much of my work over the past 10 years," it read.

"It has also been a longstanding ambition to present my work in a way that is totally immersive."

His spring/summer 2015 collection was rooted in what he called "an obsession with British folklore and its multitude of rites and rituals."

He described it as a journey "through a pagan anarchy" that referenced opposing forces "black and white, positive and negative, chaos and control."

The final flourish was "perhaps the most profound: the image of the phoenix, a timeless icon of renewal," the note said.

Very far removed, in any case, from a traditional runway show.