Runway report: Chalayan

The words ‘no dark no light’ were beamed onto the backdrop and a lone slither of a long orange dress stepped out. The cut was sublime, the only ‘detail’ a slit at the back. Three other minimal outfits lined up with the first, each sliced in varying degrees of orange and burgundy, culminating in a trouser suit with emergency orange sleeves.

This was the first ‘chapter’ in Hussein Chalayan’s tightly-controlled, thought-provoking and beautiful ‘show’. As ever, it took the form of a perambulating fashion-meets-art installation that never ceased to inspire. His is a show in the persistent churn of month-long catwalks that asks you (politely) to pause and think.

‘It’s not really about one thing,’ he said backstage. ‘The clothes were supposed to be a reaction to each scene in the background.’ So the bright clothes mentioned above lit up the dark urban images that flashed up on the backdrop. ‘Domisilent’ represented a more domestic situation where the clothes wrapped, like you’d tie a dressing gown or pull a sheet around you. ‘Cause and Effect’ looked at warships and the result of chemical contamination by way of ‘bacteria’ prints that appeared in the form of bright torpedoes of colour on a long white dress.

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But as Chalayan said: ‘You don’t need to know all that stuff. This is just what inspired me in the beginning; I like create scenarios and try to find solutions for them. But then it becomes completely aesthetic – the colours and proportions take over and it’s all about the clothes.’

And what beautiful (and, importantly, wearable) clothes they were. A long green column dress which, as somebody tweeted post show, had Tilda’s name all over it; a perfectly luxurious knee length navy coat worn with dark green and silver leggings (actually, it was a shiny holographic bonded fabric that had been specially developed for Chalayan); a group of quilted leather bomber jackets as rich and shiny as a conker; and the most elegant series of ankle-length dresses with oblong panels on the chest made of Perspex and Palladium – the latter, a precious metal ore, with strong yet lightweight properties, he explained. It marked the launch of a collaboration between the International Palladium Board and Hussein Chalayan. Could there be a better designer to give an obscure precious metal a credible, even iconic stamp of approval?

Chalayan is, quite simply, one of a kind and his latest master class in cut and proportion proved once again to be the makings of a wonderful wardrobe of clothes.

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