Offering an experience that is one part ‘Tron’ to two parts Tardis, the Monolith is a darkened chamber with padded walls, housing a Pet Shop Boys-style headset designed by Pugh, and resembling one of his more esoteric catwalk looks. Put it on, and you’re whisked to a blank room, surrounded by shadowy figures and eerie landscapes. Everything collapses on you. And then it gets really weird. ‘It’s a strange one to explain,’ admits Pugh, as he installs the crystal-shaped helmet in its new abode. ‘It’s like when people talk of a world they want to see their stuff exist in. It’s like a little look into that sort of world.’ Er, what? Put simply, it’s a 3D experience offered to shoppers that has no real relation to shopping itself. Another designer might have been keener to push units, but Pugh has always been more interested in design innovations than till-ringing. ‘In Selfridges there is a cacophony of different looks and brands and sounds,’ he says. ‘There’s a lot of visual noise. This shuts all of that off. To try and link the experience to product would have been a shame. It’s a separate entity to selling.’
It’s all a preamble to the store’s Festival of Imagination, and part of the programme of geeky events celebrating the ‘imagineers’ of fashion, art and design. So it follows that Pugh’s Monolith is also a showcase for leading east London-based creative studio Inition, dealer in all things 3D and holographic which has used digital jiggery-pokery to help realise Pugh’s vision. ‘It’s unusual on a fashion project for me to work with people that just get it,’ says Pugh. ‘I went to their offices and they were just filled with the craziest, most surreal virtual-reality things.’ So what mad science got the Monolith fizzing into action? Pugh concedes the technology was almost retro by Inition’s standards:
‘I think they got the basic headsets off an old kickstarter company that went bust. It’s actually already quite old now, this technology. The headset is really just a pair of iPhone screens. But because it tracks where you are and where you’re looking, the effect is amazing. We could do whole catwalk shows this way – people could just stand in a cubicle and find themselves in the middle of a fashion show. ’ Virtual reality might not be the future of shopping, but it could transform Fashion Week, meaning for once everyone is wearing the same thing at a show – a clunking great wonky helmet.