Wearable fashion design legend: Hussein Chalayan

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Designer Hussein Chalayan has been pushing the boundaries in wearable fashion for some time. London-based Chalayan, is an internationally acclaimed fashion designer renowned for his innovative use of materials and progressive attitude to new technology.

He is the face behind  the designs of one of the most experimental, technologically-advanced and original fashion labels in the world.

Chalayan works with a bunch  of other scientific disciplines utilizing digital technology,   LED, lasers, and holograms in designing his extraordinary creations

This is the designer who buried dresses in the ground and ‘reincarnated’ them for the catwalk. He has created a paper dress which could be folded into an envelope and turned furniture into fashion.

As a fashion design student at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, Chalayan stunned the fashion industry when he buried all the items he had created for his 1993 graduate collection for Central Saint Martins, causing the fabric to oxidize. Naming his collection ‘Tangent flows’  the young designer created an uproar in the fashion world resulting in a leading up market department store in London (Browns) to snap the collection up. Chalayan has since gone on to win a string of fashion design awards.

As a young teenager, the designer’s innovative creations continually pushed the boundaries of wearable technology. Known in the  industry as fashion’s resident ‘mad scientist’, Chalayan’s work  has been honoured  in numerous international exhibitions, including a 1997  ‘radical fashion’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, and a 1999  ‘airmail clothing’ exhibition at the famed Palais du Louvre Museum in Paris.

In 2006 Chalayan was awarded an M.B.E. in the Queen’s birthday honours list for his services to the fashion industry

However the road to success has not always gone smoothly for him. Shortly after he was  crowned British Designer of the Year in 2000, financial woes which followed the decision of New York label TSE not to renew Chalayan’s  contract as design consultant  resulted in his company being placed  into voluntary liquidation.

He has famously produced a collection which included chairs and tables that became garments. Such things as a coffee table that transforms into a wooden skirt, and, an entire collection made from envelope paper known as Tyvek have come from the inventive designer.

Four years ago, at a  Paris  fashion show, Chalayan stunned his audience when he showed ‘robodresses’ including one  that morphed in seconds from a Victorian gown to a  beaded flapper dress. To top this off, in a grand spectacle at the end of the show,  his ballerina dress was absorbed by an enormous hat that spouted puffs of sparkling dust. Spectators describe the show, which was produced in collaboration with the technology team which produced the latest Harry Potter movie, as pure magic.

In 2008, Chalayan, teaming up with the swanky, Swarovski label again broke the boundaries and designed a series of light shows within the LED dresses Chalayan debuted in  a 2008 collaboration with Swarovski.

This year, Chalayan, collaborating with the notoriously out-there dresser, Lady Gaga, saw the singer arriving at the 53 annual grammy awards in Los Angeles in an ‘egg’.  Hatching to the theme of ‘born this way’ Gaga  was carried down the red carpet in a Chalayan designed ‘womb’ before emerging from the egg to perform at the awards.

Chalayan’s advice to young designers is encouraging. He stresses the importance of always thinking of doing something that hasn’t already been done. Opening one’s self up to all sorts of other things that can inspire innovative design, keeping the mind active, and exposing yourself to other worlds are all part of his recipe for success.