One of fashion most provocative and artistic designers, Hussein Chalayan has much reason to celebrate this month with an exhibition at Paris's Musees des Arts Decoratifs, a new book published by Rizzoli and the launch of his first perfume, 'Airborne.'
The exhibition showcases Chalayan's innovative techniques that challenge fashion as an artform. The exhibit opens with one of the dresses he buried with iron filings in the garden of the north London vicarage where he was living as a student at Central Saint Martins when he graduated in 1993. The dress on show was from his spring/summer 1995 collection, looking as poetically rusted and decomposed now as it did then. At the time, Browns' owner Mrs Burstein bought his graduation collection to put in the windows of her South Molton street boutique.
Chalayan, whose book Hussein Chalayan was published by Rizzoli this month, is arguably one of the fashion world's most thoughtful and often provocative designers. The living room he referred to is from his Afterwords collection of autumn/winter 2000. The collection was shown at Sadler's Wells theatre and was inspired by the plight of the refugee in times of war. Models walked into a room set and dressed themselves in the chair covers, folded the chairs themselves into suitcases, and finally in the piece de resistance, one model stepped into the wooden coffee table and it transformed itself into a skirt.
The exhibition and its accompanying visitor's guide takes you through some of the magical films and clothes that make up an extraordinary body of work, like the mesmerising film of his One Hundred and Eleven spring/summer 2007 show where models' dresses miraculously unzipped themselves, sleeves grew, hemlines changed, and finally an entire dress disappeared into a hat leaving her totally nude. The collection of mechanical transformer dresses was a collaboration with the designer's long term patron, Swarovski who happened to be celebrating their 111th anniversary. Chalayan used his dresses to morph from one period in history to another.
The show is a series of vitrines, each showcasing a different collection or film. 'The mannequins allow the viewer to spend as much time as they like with the clothes,' said Chalayan. 'In a fashion show, we decide how long it should be.'
Fashion Narratives runs at the Musees des Arts Decoratifs until 13 November 2011.
Image: Hussein Chalayan table skirt