Even if harsh-shouldered, nipped-in and sliced-off 'Working Girl' power-dressing has become more of a fixation for designers, the last place you would expect to see it is on the always-cerebral catwalk of Hussein Chalayan.
Even if harsh-shouldered, nipped-in and sliced-off 'Working Girl' power-dressing has become less of a flirtation and more of a fixation for designers taking us into Autumn/Winter 2009, the last place you would expect to see it is on the always-cerebral catwalk of Hussein Chalayan. Chalayan has always sought to push and blur the boundary where fashion arguably meets art and his intellectual predilections have resulted in challenging, complex clothing which often seem made for women who, really, don't have very much sex at all. This collection, therefore, was all the more a short, sharp and startling assault to the senses. With hard-bitten resultwear becoming a fashion norm, Chalayan proved he can do sexy with the best of them, ditto ferociously sliced and diced tailoring. The hemlines were the first talking-point: thigh-high and sky-high from the outset, his abbreviated skirts gripped the upper couple of inches of thigh, and very little else. The really interesting aspect was how Chalayan worked these appropriations of result-wear and trite, clichéd eighties suiting. The opening looks, coat-dresses rendered in stiff, boxy neoprene, seemed wont to fuse man, machine and even building into a hybrid whole. In a single shade of concrete-grey and with bodily movement causing stiff ruptures in the rigid shell-like forms, his women, lip-glossed and preened, looked like stony but sexualised automata realised in angular contortions of clever tailoring. Similarly architectonic prints covered silk-chiffon mini-dresses, sometimes floating in panels but more oft than not cleaving to his models curves. If that was the city, later came the sex, with sensual molded leather lumps, bumps and protrusions emerging from wrapped lengths of grey and black fabric. Some of these saw Chalayan in an oddly commercial mood - if Melanie Griffiths had a head for business and a body for sin, Chalayan clearly has the former in providing the latter. A short wool tuxedo-dress, wide of shoulder and girding narrow hips, showed off impeccable tailoring skills that looked effortless but in their absolute perfection of cut were evidently anything but. The finale had an Allen Jones feel of kinky fetishism and decidedly un-Chalayan touch of blatant lust: grey woolen dresses sliced and diced with bright leather anatomical forms, skirts slipping down at back to display the sexiest hint of a suctioned-leather coccyx.