Hussein Chalayan is one of the most innovative and conceptual designer of today. Originally named as Huseyin Caglayan, he is a Turkish Cypriot born in Nicosia, Cyprus on November 13, 1970. He was an only child but his parents separated when he was still young with his mother remaining in Cyprus while his father moved to London. After graduating in the Turk Maarif College in his hometown, he joined his father in London and went to study in the prestigious Saint Martin School of Art. Chalayan initially wanted to become an architect or a pilot. What made him decide at the last minute to take fashion design is unknown. The eccentric streak in him was obvious in college as he was said to be frequently seen around the campus carrying plastic bag full of books on philosophy, architecture, and physics. His interests was so different from typical fashion students that one professor even told him to switch to sculpture.
Chalayan was almost an instant success right after his degree show in 1993 called “The Tangent Flows”. His collection was made of decomposed fabric which he had buried with steel filings to give it an aged look. Joan Burstein, owner of the Browns, the store that launched many famous fashion designers, chose to display her entire collection at the shop window. “It was his complete dedication that attracted me to his work,” she said, “He had that blind self-belief that’s inherent in all great designers” (qtd. in Elle magazine, 2001)
Chalayan presented his first solo collection in 1994. In 1995, he beat 100 competitors in the London fashion design award organized by Absolut Vodka. He was only 25 when he won the contest and got financial backing of 28,000 UK Pounds to develop creations for the British capital’s Fashion Week in October 1995. He was twice honored with the Designer of the Year Award at the annual British fashion Awards, first was in 1998 then second one in 2000. Aside from his own label, he also designs for TSE knitwear and Marks and Spencer shops.
Chalayan became a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on June 17, 2006.
Chalayan Style. Chalayan is a visionary who is not afraid to chart new fashion territory. His works are described as highly individual because unlike other designers, he avoids borrowing from fashion history. He told Elle magazine in an interview that this is because he was “never a fashion magazine nerd”. He takes inspiration from a wide range of disciplines like architecture, philosophy and anthropology. Chalayan’s collections through the years had launched innovations such as unrippable paper clothes, suits with illuminated flight path patterns, armchair covers transforming into dresses, coffee tables to wooden skirt, and the latest, animatronics fashion. He made quite a sensation during his 1998 “Between” collection where he presented traditional Muslim garb with half naked models parading on the catwalk (Designer History).
Far left and center pictures show his Living Room collection in the spring 2000 where tables and chairs are transformed to pieces of clothing. Above is his sensational 1998 Between collection with models in Muslim garb.
He has a reputation of a man with serious ideas and avoided typical fashion social circuits. He may be simple in his ways but his fashion shows can always be thought provoking. Despite the difference of his collections from fashion trends, he is able to present collections season after season. And though his collections can be expression of art and architectural showcases, his versatility is known as he is also able to create wearable pieces that are widely accepted in the market. He established his first menswear collection in 2002 which opened doors for him in numerous international exhibitions (Designboom).
One of his famous clothing innovations is the paper Airmail dress (picture far left) which arrives as a letter and folds out to become a full-length frock. The Aeroplane dress (left) is white fiberglass remote control dress with flaps that rise like aeroplane wings (We-make-money-not-Art).
From slipcovers that transforms to dresses from his kinship collection in 2003-2004(extreme left) to wearable pieces like soft white crepe patsuit from the Paris Fashion Week collection in 2006, Chalayan have shown cleverly constructed pieces that greatly enhance feminity.
His 2007 Spring/Summer collection is a showcase of animatronic couture with collection that started as dresses morphed into a hat and ended with a shower of Swarovski crystals. Among the highlight of the show is a high corseted Victorian gown and reconfigured into a crystal beaded flapper – “woman propelled through fashion history from 1895 to the twenties in the space of a minute. This was one of six incredible feats of technology and conceptual commentary at the heart of Hussein Chalayan’s show” (Mower, 2006). Chalayan’s ingenuity and understanding of the intricacy of architecture and technology transposed into clothing had earned him fame and respect in the fashion world. His designs or fashion shows can be an intellectual presentation but he is able to capture this with the quiet elegance in form. Designer History describes his style as “clothes that are minimal in look, maximal in thought”, making him one of the top fashion designer of this age.
Fashion and Design of Hussein Chalayan. http://www.cypnet.co.uk/ncyprus/culture/mofa/design/chalayan/
Hussein Chalayan. Designer History. Accessed on July 28, 2007. http://www.designerhistory.com/historyofashion/chalayan.html
Hussein Chalayan. Designer Boom. Accessed on July 27, 2007. http://www.designboom.com/contemporary/hc.html
Hussein Chalayan/ Fashion+Video. Designboom. http://www.designboom.com/contemporary/hc.html
Hussein Chalayan. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussein_Chalayan
Mower, Sarah. Hussein Chalayan Runway Review.4 October 2006. http://www.style.com/fashionshows/collections/S2007RTW/review/HCHALAYA