#SuzyLFW: Chalayan and Gareth Pugh – Thought Patterns Worked Out In Clothes

Chalayan: Subtle tailoring with thoughtful words

Hussein Chalayan and Gareth Pugh always have a message with their collections. While both have developed a personal vision – and each built successful businesses – there is always a feeling that they have some urgent ideas beyond the clothes.

This applies especially to Chalayan who, as he said backstage, “had something to say”.

That was a story of what was behind the horrors that hit Paris, which, in the designer’s view, was “a direct result of unintegrated immigration”.

As a British resident from a Cypriot Turkish family, Hussein found it necessary to remove his Muslim-sounding first name. He has previously touched on delicate subjects in his shows, such as Muslim women covering their heads.

But these political inspirations have always been done with sensitivity. And so it was for Autumn/Winter 2018, when he called the show Périphérique, referring to the Paris outer ring road that physically sets immigrants apart from the grandeur of the historic centre.

Hussein told the story in words, saying in his show notes: “We need to go beyond tolerating these new arrivals and embracing integration in north-west Europe, just as we did with the holocaust survivors of WW2.”

Tough words – balanced by a sweet and gentle collection that took smart camel coats and turned them into more protective gear, and pieces where blood-orange colour, from scarves to boots, broke up Parisian black style.

Sleeves would have a slit in the sides or a grey dress interrupted with torn strips of leopard, as though African influences were penetrating French chic. But this was all so subtle, it looked as though the clothes were an ode to integration, shown in the most delicate and wearable way.

For at the core of the story is that Chalayan is a powerful tailor, and the gentle way he shadows the female body, never at all sexy or vulgar, is why he has been on fashion’s radar for so long. And it was for his fashion and his intelligence, he received a round of applause.

Gareth Pugh: Demolition dressing

“A demolition silhouette” was what designer Gareth Pugh called hefty, rigid shoulders softening downwards into drapes before collapsing into a bulge of big – even vast – boots. He extended that definition by describing his vision as “industrial totems, razed to the ground”.

But on the runway, this definition seemed like his familiar geometric silhouette – wide-shoulders and high waists with body-conscious clothes draped below. The big, soft collapsed boots were just a diversion from the rest.

Seeing Daphne Guinness sitting opposite me in a scarlet body-con outfit from head to heel-less platform soles, was to realise that there are people out there who can make rigidity sexy.

And big shoulders are definitely back in a revival of the Eighties. At the Central Saint Martins show earlier this week, there was nothing but these coat hanger clothes. So it cannot be said that Pugh is totally out-of-sync with fashion.

Yet the message was tense, hard, uncomfortable, with what looked like bruises on the faces of the models (but may have been meant to express the sweaty side of construction). Leather trench coats were sharply cut and zippered. Silvered decoration was as tough and metallic as it gets.

But hasn’t Pugh walked this road before? Or even driven down it with the many car references that were, again to quote the designer, “hyperreal looks rendered in glossy sheets of metal as though sports cars were in mid-collision”.

This designer talks the talk – just as he expressed his hard-edge spirit last season entirely by film. But in this show, and at a time when strong women are a constant subject, emotion seemed to be lacking. Maybe that is how it feels, again in his words, when you take “this pristine object, crushing it, and then handing it back as a different thing”. Ouch!