paris fashion week: hussein chalayan

(images via vogue)

although i think you know i spend most of my time here muttering to myself about how all those kids in paris think they’re so great, but they’re not as great as they think because we’ll show them–i mean (sorry, i got a bit caught up in the primary school that is fashion) wondering if perhaps in the grand scheme of things, some of these major fashion cities are overrated. but then, i come back to it each season with a renewed vision of things, particularly whilst encountering designers like hussein chalayan.

to be clear: i do think there are probably too many proclamations about the greatness of certain well-funded houses owned by certain sets of letters (ahem), but on the other hand, we’ve got ourselves those little sub-sets of designers such as the aforementioned mr. chalayan (see f/w 2011, s/s 2012, f/w 2012, s/s 2013), whose work, while quiet and not, like, readily accessible, is some of what helps paris fashion week to gain its strength and reputation. and that’s quite the lucky thing.

indeed, however, i’d say that for the designer’s f/w 2013 effort, save maybe for some of those extra-heavy black looks that included some intensely-cuffed denim trousers and giant jackets of tops that all helped to utterly dwarf the models’ bodies, on the whole, there was a lot that was pretty and wearable, with an almost commercial-like (though i sincerely doubt this was the designer’s intention) appeal.

indeed, several of the dresses, which included some sweet little sleeveless cocktail numbers and exploded into full-on evening wear (gasp!) with dapples and streaks of colour (or, alternately, a stunning drape-y asymmetrical black silken gown, worn by katlin aas to close out the show), had a lot of ‘real wold’ viability, both flattering the models’ bodies, and offering some compelling takes on print and hue, though i will say likewise some of the structured black outerwear, with all their complexities, were probably more attractive for the hardcore chalayan fans amongst us.

and so. are you ready to hear what the critics have to say for the subject? to be sure, i can hardly wait! thus, according to uk vogue, “(j)ust when you thought you had him sussed, he moves on – for this is not a sentimental designer and there’s no room for nostalgia here. But there is room for magic dresses, like those that two models swiped off themselves to reveal others beneath – Bucks Fizz-style. This collection felt more urban than we have seen before – denims and leather to open the show and splaying swinging A-line coat shapes, bunched stiff skater skirts and utilitarian zipped jackets – all of which then made a second appearance in vivid pink and green prints.”

meanwhile, wwd pointed out that “Hussein Chalayan opened his fall show with basics, not with the proverbial twist but an elevated edge. Variations on this modern uniform included wide-leg, dark-washed denim trousers with precise oversize cuffs, sporty coats with zipper and fold details and, well, some pretty plain shirts. Yet each version of the everyday look was chic and wearable.”

“There were more relative classics — elegantly tailored coats and a simple black peplum top — to come in the show, which was a dichotomy between understated sportswear and the artsy conceptual stuff that Chalayan can’t resist,” they prattled on. “Dresses came in melting painterly prints. Some were solid but for a folded back panel that revealed a different color or a print. Then there were the nifty convertible pieces: A model walked out in a short dress with what looked like papier-mâché squares plastered all over it, tugged at the neckline and — voilà — it fell into a long, draped black gown.”

elsewhere, style shrieked out “(j)eans, a sweatshirt, and a biker jacket: Who would ever have imagined that Hussein Chalayan would go there? Of course, he did it in his own way, twisting or exaggerating the familiar. One of the most striking textural effects conveyed peeling billboards on the bad side of town. The iridescent print that duplicated thermal imaging of electricity was equally effective. But the impression that lingered longest was Chalayan’s mastery of shape: His mix of hourglass silhouette and subtle asymmetry flattered the female form with consummate modernity.”

“What was unexpected and refreshing,” reflected us vogue, “was to find so many touchstones of the season here, starting two-for-one with that dress (the idea of minimal evening plus rich texture for day, rolled into one), rendered in his own clever way. Better still was his polished take on tomboy dressing, with several great denim pants, including a slouchy drainpipe trouser that was a sleek and convincing reimagining of a boyfriend jean; not to mention the chic oversize zippered jackets all cut with his signature pleats and grounded in a modern idea of a working wardrobe.”

and, noted the telegraph, “he charmed with short dresses which, with one elegant tug of the neck-line, turned into patterned maxis; or colourful, textured shifts that became plain black ones. The mechanism was quite simple he explained. The top layer was looped over the under-layer and when the wearer releases a flap, it becomes something else. ‘What took the time,’ said Chalayan, ‘was the textured printed silk, which was meant to look like a peeling Titian. That was laser cut and screen printed and really quite a palaver to get right’.”

“But not to wear, which should always – but often isn’t – be the goal of all designers,” they continued. “The two-in-one dress may have been less of a flash-bang-wallop moment than the big table and chair reveal of 2000. Journalists focused on their notebooks or Twitter feeds would have missed it altogether. But it was no less ingenious for all that. And unlike the furniture-outfits, or the illuminated collection, these two-for-the-price-of-one dresses will actually go on sale rather than sit behind glass cases in museums.”

and finally, there was the iht‘s suzy menkes, relaying that “(i)t is tough to be a visionary when “next” is translated into a fast-fashion parade. But with this show Mr. Chalayan reached a goal that has so often escaped him: a modern wardrobe of interesting clothes but simple, sporty jackets and pants. As one of the first designers to bring high tech to high fashion, he also knows when to back-off. The digital prints were all the more effective for being sparse and often seeming to blend with the swirling digital backdrop. Every single piece of clothing seemed a desirable fashion offering connected to the real world.”

(view the fashion show video here)


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