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Hussein Chalayan

In a season rife with futuristic gestures, perhaps no one has been more forward thinking than Hussein Chalayan.<BR><BR>

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In a season rife with futuristic gestures, perhaps no one has been more forward thinking than Hussein Chalayan, who, with his collection of mechanically transforming dresses, seemed to throw down a gauntlet on what tomorrow may actually hold in store.

Will women one day wear suits that, at the flick of a button, transform into a gown? Or a hat that becomes a great coat?

Chalayan certainly made a stirring case for such two-in-one creations — while also offering a cunning visual feast. Think, for instance, of his lacy Victorian dress that delightfully morphed -— its hem shrinking to the calf — into a flapper-style dress. Or the transparent sheath that slowly retracted into the brim of a hat — leaving its model stark naked.

Chalayan said he had aimed to explore more than a century of fashion history with the six dresses that served as a finale of an already engaging show.

“I really wanted to reference the past to create completely contemporary elements,” the designer said, adding that it took five months with a movie special-effects team to perfect the computer technology to make the dresses work. “It was a real challenge for everyone involved.”

Anyone who has followed Chalayan knows hybrid and transformation have been among his recurring themes. (Remember the collection that turned into furniture?) Yet this outing marked an undeniable evolution, executed with a lightness of touch that only strengthened his thought-provoking premise. (He’s currently in talks with the Gagosian Gallery about a possible show.)

Artsy flourishes aside, it was the rest of his beguiling clothes that made the collection a worthwhile whole. His starting theme was headgear, with hats integrated into jackets and dresses — one particular standout looked like a jellyfish on the model’s head — followed by a succession of pretty graphic dresses and cool coats. These led to his dissecting of the futuristic aesthetic, including a minidress of pearls and another of plastic bubbles.

Unifying the experimental and the merch was what seemed a newfound grace chez Chalayan. “I’m really obsessed with the body,” he said. “Ultimately, the goal in all of my clothes is to create a sense of life.”

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