It takes an incredible designer to probe the live anxieties of this scary moment and yet still come up with a wearable fashion collection, and that person is Hussein Chalayan. His show literally ended with a crash: the live smashing of dozens of wine glasses lined up along a pseudo-bar inset in the back of the set. While that happened, the stage was occupied by a circle of girls standing on a revolving dais, wearing molded-latex dresses that appeared to be frozen in aerodynamic motion. Each dress was hand-painted with images of crushed cars.
"It's about the speed in our lives and how it can only result in a crash," Chalayan explained, adding that the prints, which included number plates, car handles, and fenders, were "taken from pictures of car graves." The extraordinary talent Chalayan has is his ability to project something emotionally and politically pertinent onto his runway without making it oppressively doom-laden. In this case, he ramped up the curiosity subtly. What was going on with those apparently airbrushed car-paint prints on those short, bonded-jersey minidresses? When other versions came out in printed chiffon, swirling with dark gray prints, they were all very beautiful—but were they also something to do with clouds of car exhaust fumes?
The clever part was that theoretical theatrics never got the better of the clothes. Among the more conceptual pieces there were clear passages of young, fluttery, blue-and-white striped T-shirt dresses, and a superchic one-shouldered black dress. In effect, it was a collection in which Chalayan demonstrated that he's reached the stage of maturity where his ability to articulate significant symbolism only enhances, rather than obscures, the excitement of his abilities as a fashion designer.