“Im on a trip in my own language, referencing past collections in new ways,” so said Hussein Chalayan backstage after his rip-roaring show this morning. And what a catalogue the British/Turkish Cypriot designer has to reference. From his coffee table-cum-skirt, to his aeroplane dress with a "refuelling" fuselage, Chalayan has dazzled, surprised and politicised us with his fashion over the past 20 years – it’s been two decades this year since his graduate collection launched him on to the world’s stage.
This season we were treated to a more of the Chalayan magic with a collection which seemed at times eminently wearable, at others wonderfully ethereal. Opening with wide cut raw denim jeans which featured mega turn-ups to the top of the calf, paired with scarf or funnel neck woollen outerwear, Chalayan spun his distinctive offbeat aesthetic on to the simplest of garments.
But it was when we saw a jacket peeled back with a pattern section standing aside from the body and a model suddenly ripping her dress at the neckline to reveal a whole new frock from within that the show really began to sizzle. “It’s like the garments are leaving the body like a reluctant spirit,” explained Chalayan. So how in the world did he conjure his sartorial trick? “It was actually very simple – just a two layered cut with the second skirt beneath,” he admitted.
No so simple however, were the haunting dresses and coats created from laser cut snippets of printed paper-look fabric. Resembling peeled wallpaper – a texture which has fascinated Chalayan since his student days – the pieces were painstakingly crafted over countless hours.
It is that vision, dedication to the craft and technological know-how that has made Chalayan such an important creative voice over the past 20 years. We can only hope he’ll give us 20 more to savour.