#SuzyLFW: Voices Drowned in Sound or Quiet Contemplation

Two utterly different designers, Tommy Hilfiger and Chalayan, illustrate how fashion shows can be completely personal processes. For Tommy it was a circus – literally, in the case of London’s Round House, where the presentation took place. For Chalayan, discussion about the collection is always cerebral, yet the result is mostly simple.

Tommy Hilfiger

The round stage was vast, glowing a fiery red, and glittering letters spelled “Tommy Now: Rock Circus”.

Taking his fashion on the road and dedicating an important part of the collection to the “See Now, Buy Now” concept, the American designer reached London. Where previous shows have been held in a downtown pier in Manhattan and Venice Beach in Los Angeles, the Hilfiger caravan rolled into the UK with all the razzmatazz of a real travelling circus.

Nothing was missing from the orgy of entertainment: Gigi Hadid as star model; hot dogs and hamburgers; glasses of champagne; acrobats swinging from ropes high in the tent-shaped ceiling; rap music so loud that it made the floor shake; ever-changing digital projections; and a live relay of the show on a central monitor.

But what about the clothes themselves? Cheerful, colourful and absolutely predictable. Take an elongated cardigan, striped scarlet and royal blue; a winter parka with a furry hood; a woolly beret; a checkered jacket… Everything you have seen before on the runway, including Hilfiger’s own.

Red was the predominant colour; checks the predictable pattern; hemlines were short with hose rising high. Then there were jeans, of course, the denim with a bleached effect in patches. Shorts, perhaps in leather, drew attention to the thighs. Decorative birds on the back looked mildly menacing.

There was nothing wrong with the collection. It was even quite fun. But the Hilfiger style does not sit well with British fashion, which, although short on money, offers more ideas in one small show than you could find at this big fashion bash.

Chalayan

Hussein Chalayan works in absolute contrast to fashion as an all-singing, all-dancing stage performance. Yet in a unique way, his shows reveal the essence of what is on his mind.

The thought of “lost individuals in a digital world” was the designer’s inspiration, shown in the movement of models who criss-crossed the stage at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre without ever touching or even looking at each other. There was no sense of sadness, nor any obvious message conveyed through clothes that were often balletic or sporty. Even faces covered in semi-sheer fabrics did not suggest issues of faith that came up long ago in Chalayan’s early collections.

He still has a great deal to say, as he explained after the show in a revealing way, proving how much can be expressed through the language of clothes for designers with a deep feeling for their subject. Here are a few of the thoughts behind Chalayan’s collection.

On despair

“I try to think positively, because we are constantly living with the opinion of other people and are never really in our own thoughts or what we think about ourselves. Digital media reinforces that, but I was also interested in the entitled individual. There is a contradiction between despair and entitlement at the same time. I teach in Vienna, I’m the head of the fashion department there, and I see that the young people are desperate but yet they are really entitled as well. So I wanted to create an aura of them. And the work is really instinctive; it’s not literal – it’s more a feeling.”

On veils

“The veil is something that is part of my ongoing language. I had sheets across faces before. I quite like the fact that when people are wearing the clothes you can’t see their identity, but you can get a glimpse of it, so it had to be transparent. But it isn’t an Islamic reference or anything like that, it is much more of a Riviera feeling or Martha Graham dance.”

On social media

“All the embroideries you see are about texting; texting as an embroidery. The idea is to slow down the texting process as you wait for the other person to embroider you back their message. So the idea is to slow everything down and enjoy the moment, instead of being manic, in a rush, with a fear of missing out.”

On feeling

“I’m obviously an aesthetically-driven person. I have themes that help me build the structure around which I want beautifully cut garments. Of course, I’m exploring cutting techniques, so the idea of the empowered body is the frame that drapes. I’ve been working with these themes for years, really from the late Nineties. Beauty is what we want at the end, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be energised by an idea.”

On headpieces

“I’ve been thinking about entitled and empowered bodies. Patterns then bleed into the garments that the models are wearing, I love the idea that the body then becomes like a painting. Look at the photos later and you’ll see. It could almost be like an installation as a garment and that’s what I’ve been really excited by. It also feels a bit Man Ray. The whole show is a combination of feelings.”