Last season, Hussein Chalayan’s collection was about Cuba. This season, he was inspired by Germany. Maybe in light of its recent hospitality for migrants, Chalayan felt Germany deserved some recognition. The designer spoke in his show notes about how he feels that as a country it has a lot of misunderstood cultural history.
A strict monochromatic palette opened the show. Eventually some purple shoes arrived, but it all felt rather serious for a while. Men and women emerged together, mostly wearing either leather trousers or skirts with white shirts – it was a rather louche Kraftwerk affair. Indeed, Chalayan had said that the autobahn had inspired this first section. The curved seams and reams of black and white definitely evoked an endless drive. Off kilter styling – in the guise of fake pony tails worn as earrings, with a real ponytail worn at the back – felt a bit gimmicky but made things slightly cheerier. Mimicking the Loewe’s show, held at the UNESCO building just hours before, there were bound waists on show - as with Anderson’s, they looked great. Some friendly tactility followed in the form of navy blue knit harnesses with built-in pockets.
Thankfully we took a turn off at the next roundabout and left this particular stretch of road – for something much more visually inviting. The first half of the collection had felt commercial – potentially much needed – but the second half was much stronger. Some metallic red clicks of sequins, arranged like sun ray beams, were the first sign of the collection having any potential of lift off. This was followed by some illustration prints on long white dresses. They were technical drawings for some kind of Teutonic automotive creations, but they felt strangely full of character. Dresses that looked like the insides of a computer were printed with motherboard motifs, and sparkly red beadwork spelt out digital numbers on grey wool coats. Metallic and crystal embellishments also decorated the most incredible blue dresses. To stop things feeling too one note, Chalayan also engaged with the Germanic invention of the fairytale. In a season – especially in Milan – where the worlds of Disney princess stories have been pushed our way, Chalayan showed us how you can do a theme without doing a theme. Key words from German folklore were taken out of context and worn as crystal necklaces on the bare chests of men or printed onto shirting. Chalayan said he wanted to remind us of the hedonism of the eponymous Berlin club scene, and its importance in self-discovery in a country where ‘teutonic pressures stemmed from a culture of discipline, work ethic and strict conduct.’ Looking at Germany’s cultural love for freedom, he also highlights the part this country is playing in the freedom of others today. Whether it’s rewiring the future or an intelligent retelling of the past, Chalayan can be counted on.