Whatever other trends are swirling in the fashion atmosphere this season, the most pertinent is the big one: It's the environment, stupid. It was unavoidable at Hussein Chalayan, where the show opened with a whirling storm roaring upward out of a central void in the podium. Then, on walked a girl in a dress thatthrough the magic of LED technologylit up and played its own movie, a colorful pixelated grid inspired by a cityscape, as seen from space via Google Earth.
It is fashion's responsibility (if it's to remain at all relevant) to register events in the world at large, butas Chalayan has learnedit doesn't make sense to allow intellectual acuity to militate against making wearable clothes. Or, for that matter, to let a dramatic show concept steal the thunder of an exceptionally designed collection. This season, the designer had all the angles fully covered: There were coats, there were dresses, and there was the undercurrent of a mind thinking about the seasons, and their effect on how we might dress.
One of Chalayan's starting points was the protective structure of Japanese samurai armor, manifested in the red-and-black stripes and the articulated panels in the opening sequence of coats. Those soon gave way to blue-and-white striped T-shirt dresses with body braces and tabards fastened over them, and then a whole line of thought-about headgear. Peaked caps were built into hoods, and then came the helmet devices, integrally wired to perform in response to the weather. One unfolded itself to enclose the head, and a Plexiglas fishbowl and flying saucer lit up inside to shine mood-enhancing light on their wearers during the dark days of winter.
There was something about this that was tender and inventive rather than stridently eco-activist. Along the way, Chalayan also showed things like rose jacquard dresses that, out of context of the show, are simply modern and pretty. In practical terms, the result is that Chalayan is on his way to selling more clothes, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't also thank him for staging the most thoughtful fashion exploration of the season.