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Chalayan SS15
Backstage at Chalayan SS15Photography Jacques Habbah

Chalayan SS15

Behind the veil: Hussein Chalayan explores the hidden cultures of the Arab world with cutaway layers, capes and embroidered netted gowns

Initial reaction:

What lies beneath the female gaze in the hidden cultures of the Moorish and Arab world. Chalayan peeked at the culture through burka-inspired cutaway layers, headscarves merging into goggles and oversized sun hats without resorting to tired tropes. Garments changed and transformed as jackets once again dropped down to reveal dresses and blazers, or capes on jumpsuits. Chalayan investigates the shadows these women leave behind.

The motif:

Chalayan was looking at the water irrigation systems of North Africa and Southern Spain, and translating their grid-like patterns and the way orange trees are planted in between the water channels into prints and intricate embroidery.

The peeping lady:

Chalayan may not have been commenting on a women's hijiab (meaning "to cover") attire under Islamic Sharia Law but it was still on your mind as the women moved behind the cut out screen wearing shadowy prints and peeking from beneath Noel Stewart's millinery. The finale of three netting gowns with an embroidered "peeping lady" depiction merging in with the body gave the audience something to ponder. Not that Chalayan was courting controversy. "The minute that you touch a covered woman, it becomes political," said Chalayan after the show "But it's very instinctive for us. The peeping ladies could be ninjas or they could be wearing burkas. They are hiding in the clothes and I like how the garment and the wearer becomes one and the clothes become one with her. It's like a body becoming another body. You can read it in all sorts of ways." It was a celebration rather than a probing into the mysterious female gaze of this part of the world.