Multi-platform player: Hussein Chalayan lends new form to film, dance and art

Hussein Chalayan photographed at the London studio of designers Fredrikson Stallard
Hussein Chalayan photographed at the London studio of designers Fredrikson Stallard
(Image credit: Hannah Starkey)

It’s not a coincidence that, as Hussein Chalayan was presenting his first collections, the first issue of Wallpaper* was also taking shape in London. The designer has been vocal about the impact the magazine and the city had on him from the start. ‘For me, Wallpaper* was where all the different disciplines and facets of lifestyle merged,’ he says. ‘It was a publication that really gelled that together. My interests already included interiors and furniture, so I understood straight away its role in creating a synergy between fashion, interiors, food and travel. They were more isolated before, and I think the magazine is responsible for creating these bridges.’

London in those days ‘was about different creatives working together; there was a very distinct correlation between music and fashion’. Chalayan often collaborated with the singer Björk, who modelled in one of his early shows and famously wore a piece from the designer’s 'Airmail' collection on the cover of her album, Post. ‘In terms of what inspired me, it was mostly music and cultural history.’

Throughout his career, Chalayan has not only included art and performance in his fashion work, but has also developed a series of collaborative projects that catapulted him deeper into these worlds. These included a film featuring Tilda Swinton for the Turkish Pavilion at Venice’s Art Biennale in 2005, and an exhibition at Lisson Gallery in London in 2010. Last year, he directed his first dance piece at Sadler’s Wells. ‘I never think of myself as an artist or a designer, I just get on with ideas. I never look at myself from the outside,’ he says. ‘For me, it’s really about problem solving and how we can create those ideas. So I create problems, and then I solve them – that’s how I live, in a way.’

The March 2007 issue of Wallpaper* featured a lenticular cover with the moving image of a model wearing a look from Hussein Chalayan’s S/S collection. Titled 'One Hundred and Eleven', the show featured a series of five hand-constructed mechanical dresses, which transformed on the catwalk into styles from different eras. But Chalayan has explored movement and transformation since the start of his career, mixing performance with technology, and staging intricate presentations that often included special effects and on-stage metamorphoses.

‘What I present is a world view,’ explains the designer. ‘Yes, it’s predominantly a fashion brand, but I also do other things connected to this vision. I would say it’s about the clothes first, but also the bodies that wear them, the cultural connections between space, the body and history: a world view that I express in different ways, but mainly through clothes.’

Hussein Chalayan is one of our 20 Game-Changers. Read about the other 19 here

As originally featured in the October 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*211)


For more information, visit Hussein Chalayan’s website

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.