Esoteric references are everywhere to be found in fashion collections. You don’t always have to understand them to enjoy the clothes. In the case of Hussein Chalayan’s fall collection maybe it was better to be left in the dark. At first glance, the show seemed to be a play on darkness, light and shadows. It opened with black and white, classically based looks — white shirts, black pants and coats — with crisp folds, accentuated seams, kimono sleeves and wrap waists, that together with long, lopped-off ponytails worn as earrings, brought to mind Japanese influences.


Then came gently cut white dresses printed with technical drawings. Sporty utility jackets and pants were embroidered with digital numbers or printed with German words intermixed with arrows and symbols like a roadmap. Unless you find face value in random sequences of digits and disassociated German words, the clothes’ appeal was locked in the symbols’ meaning. They required further explanation.


Collection notes explained that the lineup was an eight-chapter thesis on Teutonic culture.“Known ultimately for its economic success, Germany is currently a very compelling destination for Middle Eastern migrants. However, Germany is also responsible for many other facets of western culture that we overlook and take for granted.” The road sign jacquards were meant to capture a drive on the autobahn, but real destinations were replaced words from German fairy tales. The numbers were based on the region’s economic success, ticking “up on the speedometer of a Deutsch car as it speeds through tree-lined landscapes along the autobahn,” read the show notes. In other words, the main thing fueling this joy ride was pretension.