Ever the anthropologist, Hussein Chalayan took inspiration from the way people live their lives in the city of London, for his S/S 17 collection. Entitled room tone, it was both a piece of commentary and a proposal for a new way of living. Focusing on the city's addiction to social networks, ambition and digital data, Chalayan thought it was a fair representation of most urban cities.
With some key show sponsorship from Intel, a key piece of kit at the centre of the presentation was the Intel Curie Module. The tiny hardware product allowed Chalayan to collect biometric data, via sets of glasses, worn by the models on the runway. The collection was divided into a series of five separate studies; digital air, imminence of danger, omnipresence, stuff upper lip and outer measure.
The glasses were linked up to a belt, which projected digital infographics onto the wall. Mostly tracking nervousness, the models' brain activity, heart rate and breath were all monitored and visually depicted live, as part of the presentations. One of the motifs he worked with was the idea of the English rose. Not only did the rose appear as a live projected graphic, but as a 'grid rose' print on blouses and jackets.
Tackling a London dweller's ability to sometimes show true emotion, Chalayan also wanted to express the isolation from nature one can feel in 'the big smoke.' Overall, the collection had a slight dystopian theme - but also felt brave and affronting. Chalayan's culturally important archive of work has seen him tackle some of the most politically charged topics in our world. Never one to shy away from subjects such as religion, war or refugee displacement, this season there was a section in the show - and corresponding spoken word piece – that directly addressed the fear of terrorism in our world. There are so few designers who are willing to 'go there' and speak as a true artist. Chalayan is one of them. We should cherish him.
When asked backstage whether this collection had a pro or anti-technology message, he said: 'I'd say it was actually about both. Yes, a lot of my work is about contradictory motifs. I always like for there to be a clashing of ideas, a clashing of worlds.'
The five studies are on display from November 2016 in London at the Design Museum's Fear and Love: Reactions To A Complex World exhibition.