Halfway through this morning's Chalayan show I started thinking about the extraordinary shows/art installations that Mr Chalayan used to put on at the beginning of his career and the fantastic retrospective of his work at London's Design Museum a few years back. Why? The opening sequence of looks looked 'everyday' and 'practical' - these were updates on those standard pieces fashion editors call 'staple' (guilty!). The Japanese raw denim jeans with the big contrasting turn-ups, the grey sweatshirt with the exaggerated seams and sleeves, the wool jacket with a funnel neck and the leather jacket, here padded and ribbed. All great pieces you would pick off a rail and wear again and again - an oversized black sweater in particular looked fantastic teamed with a flippy pleated skirt - but the show was starting to feel underwhelming. And that's precisely when the models started ripping their clothes off!
Hussein Chalayan having a Bucks Fizz moment? Not quite, although that'd be one for the books! The designer played with form and duality - pull a black top down to reveal a longer print dress waiting underneath. Undo a burgundy silk satin dress to turn it into a long black one with a ruched scarf neckline. Gimmicky? Perhaps but it did showcase Chalayan's skills - how did all that excess fabric hide there without disrupting the garment's form? Two dresses for one - isn't that what we call a bargain? The prints were interesting, a medley of colour running down in stripes like a blurry night shot of city lights and traffic. They were great as a short blazer with a peplum, nipped in at the waist, with a top to match and later reappeared this time iridescent and catching the light. But what stole the show from those 2-for-1s was the 3D texture on a pair of two-tone trousers and two dresses towards the end that resembled a crusty artist's palette with layer upon layer of paint or an old terracotta wall now cracking with age. Chalayan has a knack for blending utility with nostalgia and a bit more of the latter would have been really welcomed here this morning.