A wooden tiered skirt that turns into a fabulous side table; a pair of puffy, helium-filled black balloons floating above a model and attached to her via a black jumper/harness combination that she might have just parachuted into; a dress that transforms at the touch of a button from a shiny, slim shealth to what could pass for a high-tech version of the panniers that supported the voluminous skirts of 18th Century fashionistas like Marie Antoinette...let's just say that Hussein Chalayan has always been a designer less interested in financial concerns than in really interesting ideas about fashion.
To pay the bills, the avant garde designer works at Puma as their Creative Director; however, his passions run in a decidedly less commercial direction, and London's Design Museum is about to honor him with Hussein Chalayan - From Fashion and Back, covering the last 15 years and featuring 35 of his more out-there creations which variously reference architecture, technology, anthropology, and philosophy.
"I'm too young for a retrospective," the designer recently insisted to WWD."I mean, I'm only 38 years old. "It's more like an art show — with clothes. You're not going to see any coats — nothing commercial. These are my clothes in their purist form, the monumental pieces...I want the audience to see that a lot of things in life are interrelated. I love all the connections in the world. We’re brought up to think we're isolated — an idea that’s a bit dull, and just not true."
"Hussein is someone who looks at fashion from a technological level," observes Jochen Zeitz, chairman and CEO of Puma which is the main sponsor of the retrospective. "The exhibition will be very interesting for designers — not just fashion designers, but people who are interested in technology. He has a technological mind, but knows how to translate technological information into designing fashion."
However, this being Chalayan's take on the world, even the settings will be unusual with display mannequins painting, cleaning windows, watering olive trees, and even taking a coffee break.
Hussein Chalayan - From Fashion and Back runs from January 22, 2009 until May 17 at Design Museum London.
- Lesley Scott
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