Hussein Chalayan's premise for his show, "Seize the day," was utterly enchanting: Try to make ordinary, banal situations as monumental as possible. In other words, attach value to every single second of life. Consider the alternative (which is essentially what the news feeds us 24 hours a day) for one of those seconds, and the simple humanism of Chalayan's position was irresistible. His challenge, of course, was to translate his concept into cloth.
An average moment made its presence felt with the back-projection of an unmade bed that greeted the audience on arrival. Subsequent film snippets were head-scratchingly obscure (some of them shot on Chalayan's phone), but they successfully conveyed the random smallnesses of an ordinary day, which is what the designer wanted. The clothes, on the other hand, started from items as basic as a camp shirt or a chambray jean jacket and went large, with imposingly boxy silhouettes. But they weren't stiff. In fact, they served to underscore a facet of Chalayan's talent that is usually overlooked in the whole "man who made a table walk" cliché of his career arc: He is a great sportswear designer. There were a number of crisp, clear, cleanly colored, sheerly summery pieces in this collection that brought to mind a twenty-first-century René Lacoste. There was even a 3-D net fabric that could have been tomorrow's exaggerated reweave of yesterday's cotton piqué.
Chalayan continued to twist the banal with a print that featured piles of his own clothes. Who knew there was such weird beauty in his laundry basket? Except that, once it was printed on a shimmering jacquard, it made perfect sense. After the show, the designer reflected on a career that has made him a nabob of conceptual fashion. "The first step was creating my own style," he said. "Now I want to see it on people. I want to fill the gap between fantasy and reality, because people only ever shot the showpieces."
So no showpieces today? Strike that. Chalayan allowed himself one single indulgence, a "wig" made of palladium, the precious metal whose international promoters he has aligned himself with. It looked a bit like the tinfoil on a popcorn pan that, given the designer's track record with mechanical effects, made some audience members wonder whether the finale might be an exploding head.