Undercover: Surgical Operation
Out of a smoky haze came figures wearing sporty clothes cut and shaped with surgical precision: a white top moulding the torso, a tailored coat decorated with the image of a sharp-bladed knife.
Living up to the brand’s name of Undercover, designer Jun Takahashi had a secret to unveil. The smiling faces, so unexpected at today’s fashion shows, were created by ‘plastic surgery’: masks that gave the models a perpetual smile.
Other signals that these women might not be as they first seemed were the unfashionable jewels – the type of droopy fake stone necklaces you find in thrift shops.
By the time that smooth faces and bodies were blown up giant-size on the full length of a dress or long skirt, I realized that Takahashi had a point to make.
But he also produced finely cut clothes that – take away the digital prints and plasticised faces – made an exemplary modern collection.
With the precision of that surgeon’s knife, the designer traced curves in a bomber jacket or shaped a peplum in a tailored top. The printed faces, unsettling as they were, fitted perfectly to the torso of a coat rounded at the shoulders. By the time that silken shawls were lapped around draped knits, there was a sense of timeless elegance.
I didn’t really understand the message. Was it that faces might demand the elixir of youth – but clothes can be eternal? By the time that shards of ‘glass’ were sprinkled over trouser suits like fallen leaves, I just admired the artistry of it all. And Takahashi made his point: he can cut like a dream.
Chalayan: Murder Mystery
A fur coat with arms savagely sliced off, a cloche hat with one side removed – what cloak and dagger reason had Hussein Chalayan for creating this fashion crime?
As I looked at the finely crafted collection of streamlined clothes and slender evening dresses, I did not get the story – not even when patterns of snow appeared on a neatly tailored jacket, or patches of blood-red oozed across a slender evening dress.
But Hussein Chalayan solved the mystery backstage with two words: Agatha Christie.
Inspired by Murder on the Orient Express, the designer had taken elements of that famous story and its film version and absorbed the tension and the mystery into fine modern clothes.
The cloche hat was taken straight from the Thirties, but the other clues were subtle: the snow gathering into a storm, so essential to the novel’s plot, was absorbed as a digital pattern. So were the mountain ranges. Yet neither seemed intrusive.
Chalayan has often worked with themes, and his skill as a tailor and draper have sometimes been lost in the complexity of this thoughts. But this was a textbook example of how to take inspiration and absorb it into clothes. Every fashion school should put it on the agenda for students to understand the sophistication and sensitivity of weaving ideas into output.