|"The Tangent Flows".|
With his insecure expression one wouldn’t expect this kind of passion from Chalayan. The half British, half Turkish-Cypriot designer left Turkey when he was eight. So one may consider him more British than Turkish. However the Turkish public tended to place claims on him because of his great success in fashion design industry.
His first public preview was at his graduation from the renowned fashion college Central St Martins, in 1993. In this collection, named “The Tangent Flows”, Chalayan famously buried his decomposed silk dresses in his back garden. He then dug them up especially for the runaway! Unexpectedly this collection caused a sensation and captured mass attention from design authorities moreover displayed in Browns, London.Anyone who knows a little bit about his background can easily understand the symbolism behind his first collection. He referred to the process of immigration that he and his family faced when he was a small child. I think he is so brave for addressing such challenging and personal matters for his graduation project.
I strongly believe that a designer’s mission is not just dressing people, the clothes should also reflect an artistic perspective and the creator’s cultural background. In my opinion Hussein Chalayan represents these factors in his collections perfectly. On the completion of his graduation collection a new era began for Chalayan.
Despite the fact that he was so productive in those years he had a hard time financing his collections and research. It can be observed that in his collections between 94-97, he had faced an antagonism between being a market designer who could easily finance his work with prêt-a-porter collections and becoming a real artist, who worked independently of the strings of the industry. I strongly believe that he choose to be a real artist.During these years he had the chance to work with one of the most innovative and creative people in the world: Björk. In 1995 Chalayan designed the jacket that she wore on her iconic cover of her album “Post”. The special thing about the jacket was that when you fold it was shaped just like an envelope, which, completed with red and blue striped borders and string it tied into the letter format. After the success of the album cover Björk modelled for him during London Fashion Week.
|"Post" album cover.|
|The Table Skirt from the A/W "After Words", 2000.|
In 2000 Chalayan finally created his signature collection called “After Words”. In this collection you can see how he merged different disciplines in one context. Chalayan touched on all the important issues of complex design work such as: method, tools, materials, need, use and aesthetics. The function of the dresses, were more striking than the design. In today’s polluted, problematic modern world this is essential.
Function must overcome beauty and aesthetics because appearance will not answer any of our global problems - function will. Chalayan reflected this point of view perfectly in his futuristic collections.
|The Airplane dress from S/S "Before Minus Now", 2000.|
In his spring/summer collection in 2000, named “Before Minus Now”, he took his skills to the extreme. The “Airplane Dress” from this collection was a modern masterpiece for our time. The dress was made with the same material used in aircraft construction and changed shape with the help of a remote control.
|Function of a piece from S/S "The Readings", 2008.|
His predilection for reducing fashion to abstract notions of place and identity that all but disregard the body, is what fashion must head towards today. “I’ve always thought of him as an artist who has chosen fashion as a career when he could have gone in other directions.” said Greg Hilty, the curatorial director of the Lisson Gallery, and I strongly agree with him.
I like to consider Chalayan as a futuristic sculptor who uses clothes for his installations. He demonstrated an inter-disciplinary mindset, often using different tools. While he has certainly employed a conceptual approach to fashion design, he himself has always insisted that this is not fundamental to the understanding of his clothes.
He says that it is part of his creative process, a method that keeps him interested in fashion design. For Chalayan, fashion is an applied art in as much as it represents the employment of an artistic sensibility to create functional objects: function over beauty.