Monday, 12 October 2009

Hussein Chalayan Spring Summer 2010

At 18 I left my small town of Matlock in Derbyshire and moved to Madrid. Madrid was all things that Matlock wasn't: clubbing all night and then all day in the underground after-hours clubs, afternoons spent in sun-drenched plazas drinking Mahou and endless journeys of discovery in contemporary art around the recently opened Reina Sofia Museum.

It was in the Reina Sofia that I first came across the slashed canvases of Lucio Fontana. The fascination was instant but it took me some time to realise that it was the suggestion of another world behind the slashing and stabbing of the canvases that intrigued me. For me, these incisions alluded to a land beyond the canvas that was just out of reach.

Above: Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attesse, (Spatial Concepts) 1965, courtesy Guggenheim Collection
Below: Photo of Lucio Fontana by Ugo Mulas

Hussein Chalayan's Spring Summer 2010 catwalk in Paris last week, entitled Dolce Far Niente (translated by himself as Doing Sweet F*** all) came in a year when Chalayan could hardly have been criticised for resting on his own laurels. Following last year's appointment to the Creative Director role at Puma, he had a hand in the curation of the first major retrospective of his work in the UK at the Design Museum earlier this year, took part in various associated events as well as countless other projects around the world for both his own brand and for his new position at Puma. During the three visits I made to the Design Museum exhibition, my jaw ended up on the floor on various occasions. I was particularly awestruck by the landmark moment the models turned the coffee room set into furniture in AW2000 collection, After Words and the amazing animatronics in his SS2007 collection One Hundred and Eleven, neither of which I'd seen on a big screen before. I was left wondering what a mind-blowing experience it must have been to witness these shows, which had made me think about fashion in a completely new way, in person...

Above: the austere surroundings of the Couvent des Cordeliers.
Below: the backstage area across the convent courtyard

So it was with much excitement that I arrived at the Couvent des Cordeliers in Paris last week for Chalayan's Spring Summer 2010 catwalk. Once inside I perched next to the band and noticed a handsome figure decked out in a dinner jacket, somewhat nervously standing at a lectern at the other side of the stage from me. It was Hussein, with rather more hair than usual. When the show started and as the models entered, he announced key points in the collection in French. I fear subtlety of meaning some of this was lost on me but in any case I loved the element of refined showmanship. Every season Hussein seems able to bring an element of show to his collection but always with originality and always imbuing it with cool in the most unpredictable ways.

Below: Hussein in a dress suit announces the looks

And so to the collection.

Where the work of Fontana intrigues me for the other worlds hinted through the incisions in the layers of paint and canvas, Hussein's new collection excited me through the subtle revelations of flesh offered by the repeated slashes, transparency and pointed layering. Having blogged my interest in transparency a few months ago and seen a lot of it on other catwalks over the last few weeks, it was great to see Hussein use it in a mature and highly original way. Here, the long sheer, feminine dresses were contrasted dramatically by unexpected gentlemen's tailoring-inspired details and surrealist hands gripping the fabric, twisting it from below, from the world beneath the dress.

As I kept watching I saw more evidence of hidden forces and private territories below the surface of the clothes. Many looks featured pointed bras which poked themselves to the surface of the sheer outer layers. Backs had cutaway panels, maxi length dresses were slashed at the waist and holes were cut in the hats for visors to drop-down with characteristic Chalayan techno-charm. I saw a world beneath the dresses, bodies that were looking to escape; but this was carried out with subtlety and suggestion which left me fascinated and wanting to know more about this force rather than being visually assaulted by the over exposure we saw on so many catwalks the week before in Milan.

Thanks for showing me this world Hussein: once again you have taught me to look at clothes in a new way.

See videos from all Hussein's show and a walk through the Design Museum exhibition on his official site.

And keep up-to-date with all things Chalayan from 3rd party collection reviews to sample sale news on his label's blog.

Find out more about Lucio Fontana.

On the slate...more to come from ManAboutParis and a Vivienne Westwood London Vs Paris party-off.


  1. Been looking forward to this one. Love your links and personal take. That's why I'm following...

  2. Thanks for the new interpretation Mr! Insightful in many ways as usual.

  3. Fontana Vs Chalayan. Love your comparison! Intelligent writing sir.

  4. Thanks people.

    Hope you enjoyed his AW? Unfortunately I was in China so missed out this time.