Chalayan’s postcolonial style
today Jun 9, 2019
UK menswear’s reigning intellectual designer is Hussein Chalayan. That’s been true for quite a long time, most of his 25 years in the business - and certainly was this season, since his collection was a meditation on the idea that foreign powers can dramatically influence the mind of colonized countries, in part by changing the way that the locals dress.
Chalayan loves a good dense program note, which this season boasted one of the following opening phrases: “At times we are lost in the euphoric exoticization of the body.”
None of this would matter much if the clothes he created were not that inventive. However, they really were this season – distilling elements of colonial style from various cultures into a harmonious series of ideas.
Presented in a broad alleyway outside his flagship store on Bourdon Street in Mayfair, the collection opened with some finely cut suits; billowing pants and wide cuff shirts in double-chalk stripe linen; the kind a Brazilian rum plantation owner would have worn with a cachaca and cigar in his local grandee’s club.
Also impressing were beige shirts and jerkins in crisp cotton, cut with slashes and scrunched up with elastic ties; the better to show the deep cuts colonialism does to a culture.
Hussein Chalyan named his latest collection 'Post Colonial Body', explaining that his starting point was “South American dance, and how colonialism changed the way the dancers dressed, and without maybe realizing it, how they also moved.”
Some prints even showed Tango step instructions; others featured multiple ethnicities inside a Japanese garden.
He extended that idea to Japan, “which underwent a much shorter occupation, not even a decade, compared to 300 years in the South Americas, though the intensity was much greater.”
As a result, the clothes had the easy assurance of colonial style, but a dash of the movement of dance, and the combination led to a fine fashion statement.
Presented on a blustery midday in London, the cleverly executed exterior came chaperoned by some of Chalayan’s favorite characters: two entirely black clad Ninjas who directed the occasional Uber or London black cab that appeared outside Chalayan’s flagship.
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