Is it possible that Hussein Chalayan is thinking the same way everyone else is? For fall he showed small, drapey cutaway dresses; skinny, skinny pants; and some great utility/patchwork jackets and coats, decorated with embroidery and zippers. Add in a miniskirt with D-ring garter tabs, glove-leather formfitting dresses and high heels, and the descriptions begin to read like a roundup of the season’s most important fashion headlines.

As always, though, the genius is in the execution. Chalayan came at these ideas from his own distinctive direction, elevating the collection above mere trendiness. For several seasons he’s been influential in cutting abstract layers into clothing and superimposing elements of ethnicwear onto urban materials. Now all that experimentalism has come together to form cool, downright wantable stuff. Dresses, jackets and coats came with pieced-in jigsaws of plaid, zones of military drab, the odd patch of shearling and fragments of olive branch–patterned embroideries derived from Turkish folk costume. Sound complicated? It wasn’t. “It looks much less conceptual,” beamed Julie Gilhart, fashion director of Barneys New York, after the show. “The jackets and miniskirts are great.”

Nevertheless, the burden of Chalayan’s allusions is impossible to ignore. His complex performance-art presentation plumbed the foreboding imagery of religious guilt and impending war but ended with a group of girls popping open inflatable pockets as they stood next to a wooden boatlike installation. The designer said it symbolized Noah’s Ark: hope for humanity after the deluge.