Movement, travel, and above all speed. That was the message of Hussein Chalayan's show today - a jarring cacophony of garments as displaced and confusing as the show's soundtrack, randomly scrolling like a poorly-tuned radio from one sound to the next. Chalayan's outfits seemed to have trouble with their frequency too - how else to explain an outfit that combined tailored suit jacket, bleached denim jeans, plimsoles and a leather wimple for good measure.
Backstage, Chalayan talked about the idea of an American road trip - that tailoring came from New York, the wimples and Dutch peasant caps from Amish Pennsylvania, heavy multicoloured wool embroidery spelled Mexico way, while whirlwind gowns encasing body and neck in spiral-cut clashing silks were inspired, naturally, by tornado paths of destruction. Imagine barrelling at break-neck speed through those destinations like a twister, and you have the justification behind this show, throwing together disparate influences and whisking them together into confusing styles. Sometimes, frankly, the whole thing just felt confused. There were beautiful pieces that could be extracted from the pile-up of product: those coats and jackets, mannish and oversized, looked great, playing with subtle tailoring quirks like colliding flap and besom pockets or dropping the notches in lapels. Floor-length Swarovski-emblazed red carpet gowns (the trip evidently swung by Hollywood) with jokey sunglasses spelling 'Mirage', however, had little appeal either as part of a narrative, or as stand-alone garments.
Chalayan opened his show with a tribute to Alexander McQueen, a designer whose career has run in parallel to Chalayan's own. While this collection was obviously well in the works before the tragic events four weeks ago, in a show seemingly obsessed with 'fast fashion' could Chalayan's tribute also be interpreted as pointed criticism of a system many saw as responsible for McQueen's suicide? It's uncertain, but certainly leaves room for thought. The trouble with conceptual fashion is that, like conceptual art, it can often become a case of The Emperor's New Clothes. If a concept is good enough, it will shine through the garments without needing to be over-explained, and the show will be all the stronger for it. Equally, just because the designer says it isn't a mess, doesn't mean it's not a mess.