Hussein Chalayan likes to set an intelligence test for his audience. When a lone Asian model walked on stage dressed in what was clearly a genuine ethnic costume, then stood stock-still for fifteen long minutes, there was restlessness and discomfort in the crowd. Was this some sort of silent protest? Was that a tear trickling down the poor girl's face?
When she was joined by several other models whose costumes were increasingly overlaid by black shards of western menswear fabric, the guessing game entered a new round. First, Chalayan segued into black skirt and pantsuits done with his distinctive asymmetric cuts. The free-floating strips of fabric he's been attaching to clothes since last season recurred, both through the tailoring and hitched to jersey dresses, which were constructed to drape, bunch up and fall in waves at the hemline. Then he turned to cotton sweat-fabric, cut raw-edged as tops over little flouncy skirts and as a plunge-front gray halter dress with a full, swingy hemlinesimple but elegantly modern. Moving into brown canvas, he cut short dresses and coats with military pockets and then layered a net web over black jersey dresses.
After the show, Chalayan revealed that the ethnic costume came from a region of eastern Turkey, but refused any further explanation, saying, "Interpret it as you will." No matter: neither enigmatic pronouncements nor symbolic gestures could obscure the fact that these were stunningand quite originalclothes.