One of the most innovative and experimental fashion designers, Hussein Chalayan, is to show outfits, installations, photographic images and video pieces at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsurg, in Germany. I first got to know him for his “normal” collections. Then I learned that:
For his graduation collection at St Martins in 1993, Chalayan buried the silk clothes in the earth to see how they would decompose.
His autumn/winter show in 2000 featured models in sugar glass clothes who undressed each other by smashing the outfits with hammers. Other shows have revealed a social conscience absent elsewhere in the fashion industry: naked models wearing dresses based on the traditional Islamic chador, as a comment on the treatment of women in Muslim societies.
Other pieces display technical virtuosity, such as his paper Airmail dress (picture), which arrives as a letter and folds out to become a full-length frock and the Aeroplane dress, a white fiberglass remote control dress with flaps that rise like aeroplane wings before take-off.
But it was his Living Room collection (more pictures), in spring 2000, that sealed his reputation. A range of tables and chairs transformed into clothing (slipcovers became dresses, chairs were folded into attaché case and a round table became a skirt). The models serenely picked up the furniture, put them on and walked off.
“The project had nothing to do with furniture,” he says. “It was all about the moment of trying to leave your home at a time of war. The living room was supposed to be like somebody’s wardrobe. How you could hide your possessions and carry them with you? Partly it’s from my background – I’m from Cyprus, which is a divided place – and partly because of Kosovo.”
Chalayan solo exhibition runs 15 October 2005 – 5 February 2006 at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsurg, in Germany.