A Hussein Chalayan show can sometimes feel like mental arithmetic, scrambling around inside your brain for an answer to what you see before you. It can also show some wonderful, wearable, downright covetable clothing. Chalayan's best collections? When he fuses the both so seamlessly you can't tell where one ends and the other begins.
Spring/Summer 2012 was just such a Chalayan moment. He may have dropped half the name from a label he now calls 'Chalayan', but this show was pure Hussein from the get-go. In case you were wondering if that name drop meant he was any less hands-on, Chalayan himself was centre-stage, dressed as a Frenchy-finished waiter fresh from 'allo 'allo, serving his models glasses of bubbly. The show was called sip, they sipped them - but there were cameras in the bottom of the flutes, projecting images of their abstracted, wet lips onto the backdrop. As a Belgian choir sang in the background, and two masked gentlemen silently poured the champagne for the parade of possibly-now-quite-tipsy models.
Sounds like a madcap distraction from the clothing on show? In any other hands it would have been. But Chalayan is a master of these kind of spectacles, and this was a tour de force. First clever thing: sleek neutral suiting, some with back detail. Because the models turned their back to us to drink their champagne, you see. A few of the dresses had sliced-out rear-views with an overhang at the shoulder - they reminded me of a mouth (maybe too literal for Chalayan) - but the dresses themselves were the real story, multi-gored and fresh in sherbet orange, lemon and monochrome. They're a line Chalayan has been developing in his two seasons off from the catwalk, but they also resembled work he first showed in a London show of remote-controlled dresses and topiary tulle over ten years ago. This presentation had the same type of magic.
The magic also melded with the fantastic clothing on offer. It doesn't bear witness to run through it all- you'll see it soon enough on the very many racks of very many stores, if there is any justice in this fickle world of fashion. There was brilliant tailoring, prints, some sexy little reflective shorts. The choir sang arias and you were uplifted. Mr Chalayan seemed fairly pleased as he took his bow, the audience cheering and stamping both the fantastic fashion and the great, great show. For all the hot air that blows around Paris at this time of year, a marriage of style and substance quite this perfect is very rare indeed.