Hussein Chalayan marked 25 years in business with little fanfare and a somber collection that picked up on pretension, a theme he started exploring with his latest pre-collection.

The beauty was all in the details here: A leather top with a draped back panel and a contrasted corseted jersey body; a striped jersey dress with a cape overlay; a navy structured coat with two single pleats at the front; or an expertly tailored jacket featuring layered peplums. All pointed to the designer’s impressive tailoring and draping skills.

This time Chalayan wanted to explore pretension in a positive light, as “a necessary catalyst to help us look at the world in a more imaginative way.” He did this through the lens of fetishistic clothing and the “ill repute” women associated with the scene.

That’s where the abundance of leather tops and corsets came in. But Chalayan reworked them to inspire a more modern sense of ease: Corsets came in soft jacquards or were dismantled and pieced back together with light, draped chiffon layers.

“The idea was to create islands of fabric and then bring the corsets together, working with the drape in between. In a way disembodying and then bringing back to the body again,” the designer explained.

Models also wore traditionally masculine equestrian pants and were trailed on the runway by puppeteers in black masks “pretending to be the wind” and fanning them or holding up the trains of their dresses. They inspired a dark but empowering feeling.

For the finale, Chalayan explored the ultimate form of pretension: “Vogueing.” He translated it subtly into the movement of the drapes seen on midi dresses and skirts and more literally, with masks featuring eerie faces in “Vogueing” poses.

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