Simple and clean-cut, the recently unveiled Chalayan S/S 2013 collection was as no-frills as it gets. Of course, fresh and light as the collection appeared, when Hussein Chalayan's at the helm, we can always look forward to a current of the unexpected.
This season it came in the form of a sculpted metal wig. Appearing on the head of a model dressed in a marble printed column dress, it was as if a Greek statue had come to life at the hands of Man Ray - the outline of the sculpted silvery tresses reminiscent of the eerie glow derived from the artist's solarisation photographic techniques.
While the idea of metal headwear may seem unworkable, uncomfortable even, Chalayan's wig is made from palladium, a white precious metal valued partly for its lightness; and brightness: if the alloy appears to be slightly glowing, it is because it is naturally tarnish resistant and doesn't react with air or oil and, therefore, skin. It is this that gives palladium its particularly white quality.
Chalayan's latest palladium creation is part of the designer's ongoing partnership with the International Palladium Board - his A/W 2012 show included dresses with sculpted palladium necklines. Started as a way of stirring up renewed interest in this 100-year-old metal, the Palladium Visions programme has so far produced collaborative pieces with Vivienne Westwood and Lara Bohinc, as well as students from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
With his Greek statue come to life, Chalayan is taking his lead from William Hyde Wollaston himself, the British chemist who discovered the alloy. Wollaston too, envisioned a Greek beauty as the figurehead for this strange, almost luminescent metal, naming it after Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom and craftsmanship.