LONDON FINALE
INDISCREET CHARM AND ARRESTING DEVELOPMENTS
HUSSEIN CHALAYAN TOOK HIS COLLECTION IN AN UNEXPECTED DIRECTION THIS SEASON BY ADDING A CERTAIN FEMININITY AND CHARM, WHILE OTHER INTRIGUING DEVELOPMENTS CAME FROM NEW NAMES, FACES AND PLACES.

Hussein Chalayan: Breathtakingly beautiful. Those are the only words to describe Chalayan’s spring collection, which was a fashion happening in the oldest — and still best — sense of the word: no hype, few theatrics, simply a focus on producing beautiful clothes that almost any woman would want to wear. (We are in a business, after all.)
Chalayan’s own label has been getting better and better for the last four seasons as his talent has matured. He remains firmly planted in the esoteric — his spring show was called “Before Minus Now,” and his first models came out in dresses accessorized with vertical wooden projections. But, as they should be, these details are now completely secondary to the clothes.
His new venue was also an improvement. Rather than the drafty warehouses he has always chosen in the past (partly for financial reasons), Chalayan selected the considerably more chic setting of the New Sadler’s Wells ballet theater in North London. The black stage was covered by a huge white disc with another suspended above it, like a pocket watch about to snap shut. A man emerged from the wings and opened a slot in a white wall to reveal a piano keyboard. Lyrical music floated upward, suggesting that this would be a new kind of Chalayan collection, and the first models in pastel pleated dresses with matching tulle petticoats proved it.
While the designer’s creativity has never been in doubt, in the past, his designs were so stiff and intricate that they overwhelmed rather than flattered. Not for spring. Playing with the new, more voluminous silhouette seen everywhere on the London runways this season, Chalayan came up with ruched and frilled dresses, skirts and tops ideal for the artsiest of high school proms. That volume was carried to its extreme in two pale peach dresses in tulle, which was so tightly packed that it was solid, cut by sculptor Lorne Sigurdson to resemble huge ostrich eggs. “It’s something I would like to take a lot further,” Chalayan said.
Other standouts included dresses, skirts and tops with subtle tree and branch prints; cropped jackets with barely-there slashes at the back of the arms, and some of the best denims in town — a denim dress cut like a pair of jeans, skirts with patchworked selvage and ruffled-front skirts worn with sleeveless tops. Even the shoes by newcomer Adele Clarke were strong — a new take on the classic Mary Jane with an ankle strap and cutouts at the toe.
It was all pretty and, with the off-the-shoulder looks, even sexy — a first for Chalayan. “The femininity was a new thing for me,” he admitted. “It was deliberate because I wanted to expand with new ideas.”
The notoriously-serious Chalayan even showed a bit of humor — a model appeared in a metal dress with flaps, which a sweet-faced boy with a remote control device proceeded to open to create a shape like an airplane fuselage. His other main trick, though, had already been done by Yohji Yamamoto — Erin O’Connor came out in an orange off-the-shoulder dress with a full skirt and stood stock still while a technician proceeded to pump up its volume with an air pipe.
“I always work in sequences and discover new things for myself,” Chalayan said the day after his show. “For me, this is just the beginning.”
It should be fun to watch the next acts.

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