With a scrupulous eye that surely must strain every now and again, the iconic designer Hussein Chalayan presents his latest exhibition ‘Fashion Narratives’ in Paris.
Known for his unpredictable shows and avant-garde fashion creations that fuse traditional dress designs with ambitious architectural structures, Hussein Chalayan is one of the most original designers working in the industry today. Stretching a creative flair to the extreme, Chalayan also creates films, art installations, designs furniture and occupies the position of Creative Director at Puma. In an attempt to survey his illustrious career, today Paris’ Les Arts Décoratifs opens ‘Hussein Chalayan: Fashion Narratives’, showcasing sixteen years of work and counting.
i-D Online spoke to the multi-talented designer in the run-up to the exhibition about identity and inspiration.
From your retrospective at the Design Museum two years ago, how does your latest exhibition ‘Fashion Narratives’ compare? This exhibition has a number of similarities but is not chronological and is organised in a way that may have helped create the chapters, and also in some way reflects the book which has been published to coincide with the show.
This exhibition reveals your thought processes and working practices – what were the influences and technology behind your AW11 ‘Kaikoku’ collection? The idea was a progression from the Spring/Summer 2011 collection, in which dresses and waistcoats were cut in curved silhouettes and the body was filmed as if floating. With automata in Japan the body can potentially start to float, it is free, as it doesn’t have the restrictions of subjecting itself to daily chores. The Swarovski Floating Dress from the collection is automated. Designed with fifty Swarovski crystal “pollens”, the dress is decorated preciously, juxtaposing the crystals together with the pearled paper of the pollen that float in the air when released by the figure wearing the dress. The crystal pollens symbolise a new beginning, something that goes on to a further journey and pollinates ideas. The colours of the dress; gold, white and crystal, are new ingredients of a delicate decoration almost like a Japanese jewellery box in the form of a dress.
The exhibition also explores ideas of migration and displacement; a common theme in your work. You were born in Cyprus and live and work in London, show in Paris and represented Turkey at the Venice Biennale. How much of your identity is contained within your nationality? The values of my family and Cypriot upbringing have been the biggest influence. But I have also been affected by living in London with so many multicultural influences and also by the number of different people that I have met – it’s one of the best things about my job.
‘Fashion Narratives’ examines the political, cultural and religious boundaries that inform your work – is it fair to say this exhibition is an autobiographical one? This exhibition is an edit of work from the last sixteen years – many pieces have been shown at other exhibitions including the Design Museum, Tokyo Modern Museum and Istanbul Modern. Generally, the installations are shown in connection to the subject matter of each collection but there are also films and installations, which are still part of the Chalayan World – many are commissioned art pieces for a number of galleries and arts organisations.
Your interest in architecture is well documented – are you excited to be exhibiting at the spectacular Les Arts Décoratifs? It is of course a huge honour to have my work presented in exhibitions. The exhibit at Les Arts Décoratifs will be my first solo show of a large scale in Paris so it’s a great privilege.
Your art frequently reflects an interest in technology and technological advances. What are the tech gadgets you can’t live without? Like everyone now I can’t live without my iPhone but that’s about it for day-to-day.
Which recent exhibitions have affected you? Whilst in Paris I saw the Madame Grès exhibition.
‘Hussein Chalayan: Fashion Narratives’ is at Les Arts Décoratifs until November 21.