It's extraordinary to watch how an avant-garde talent like Hussein Chalayan has talked himself around to presenting a collection so polished it almost looked like haute chic. As in, a pearl gray, three-quarter-length coat, traced with white satin binding, and finished with a snug shearling collar. Or a narrow black wool cocktail dress with a square neckline and black lace sleeves. Or a belted raincoat with a swaggering volume in the back.
Forget for a second that Chalayan also sent out sculpted boleros made out of carpet, which swooped up in humps above the head. Those came as reminders of the enigmatic, conceptual work he was producing at the beginning of his 10-year career. (His seminal pieces are now gathered in an anniversary retrospective at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands.) However amazingand whatever they meanthose moments should not distract from the extraordinary maturity of this collection. Chalayan has now developed into a designer who, like Nicolas Ghesquière and Olivier Theyskens, has found an intelligent, inspiring way to revive the art of refined dressing. Not young, not old, but somehow classy, it made this show one of the definitive thrills of the Paris season.