Wednesday, 8 December 2021

London Fashion Week: Hussein Chalayan’s virtuoso performance

LONDON: “I didn’t think anyone would come!” joked Hussein Chalayan after his 9am show at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. An early Saturday start was never going to deter his audience though: Chalayan is a visionary designer who started his label back in 1994 and he hasn’t shown in London for more than 15 years. He added that he moved his shows to Paris for S/S 02 “because we felt we had to for the business. It grew a lot when we went to Paris.” Now though, he thinks that London has changed and the buyers are coming. Chalayan is known for shows and clothes that fuse art, fashion and performance. His graduate collection included dresses which had been covered in iron filings, buried in the ground and then dug up, and he has also masterminded garments which turned into furniture, and laser dresses.

This collection, dubbed Act to Form, wasn’t one of his most conceptual. However the final section still offered a jolt of the unexpected when a model ripped open the paper front of her tailored jacket, which said ‘Pull to Open’ and feathers cascaded out. Subsequent outfits included long black gowns and suits with diamond patterned front panels, from which metallic strips burst out when the model tore them. Before this the tone of the show had been quieter and simpler. Models walked across the black theatre stage wearing flat dancer’s shoes followed by a spotlight. Chalayan will know this platform well: he directed and designed clothes for the dance show Gravity Fatigue here in 2015. Clothing shapes were structured but still quite loose, and drew on traditional Greek folk clothing. Fabrics included felts and tailoring wools, cottons, printed velvets, and a custom jacquard showing an ancient Greek city map combined with a modern Manhattan grid system. Colours were muted: black, dusky rose-brown, navy, greys from dove to anthracite, and white.

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