Hussein Chalayan by Paloma H.Canut

Hussein Chalayan was born in 1970 in Nicosia, Cyprus. At age 8 he moved to England and preceded to attend Central Saint Martins and graduated in 1993, with a collection titled “The Tangent Flows” that sets the style of his latter collections, where he experiments not only with fabrics and patterns but also with the techniques he applies to the fabrics. In “The Tangent Flows” he buried all the clothes in his backyard once they were finished, and dug them up before his end-of-year show (Images 1 & 2). This collection was a rebellion against the contemporary man, whom he believes to be miserable, this feeling is what makes him want to wear rubbish. He’s inspired by life, using current events as themes for his works; politics, moral matters and human interests and concerns are ideas always present in his works, which is why he is often been called a “philosopher”.[i]

Since he was little he’s been interested in architecture, he said he loved to play with stones back in Cyprus and build incredible structures.[ii] This interest in construction and volume is ever-present and is the base of his pieces (Image 3 & 4). His childhood memories and experiences are always key to the understanding of his work. From the detailed construction an attention to detail that we find in his clothing, transmitted through his mum who used to do all his clothes, to the fact that in a large number of his collections we can find references to the Islam yet however, he always tries to take them to the extreme and to look beyond the ‘normal’ connotations we have and explore the path that his inspiration might take him to. (Image 5 & 6)

Part of his success is due to his avant-garde approach to three key elements in fashion: design, material and presentation. He makes clothes metamorphose and changes the perception that the audience has of them. They are no longer just clothes; they can be furniture, unique pieces of art.  In the Kyoto Costume Institute we can find the wooden corset Chalayan did in 1995, a piece that shows the perfection of the shape and craftsmanship and his knowledge of the body, which is worshiped as an art piece. (Image 7 & 8 )

Furthermore, it is not only the choice of materials that is innovative but the process that he puts them through to achieve the look that he envisions. Not only has he buried clothes in order for them to look rotten but he has also burned them and then stitched them together. With this he tried to show how quickly fashion dies and how easy it is to recycle. He uses all of this as a way of emphasizing his inspiration, to make sure that the message is clearly transmitted.

Presentation is the last key element in his method. It is through this final step that his fashion projects are completed; it is how everything comes together. When presenting you have to be clean and clear, the message has to be transmitted as it is, raw, so that everyone can grasp it. This is seen in his fashion shows where he puts models down the runway wearing his garments and also acting the role that he has asked them to. He often uses technology both in the construction and in the presentation of his pieces; he believes technology can create new connections and realities between things, it is a way of making our dreams and ideas possible. [iii] (Image 9)

However, as a true artist he manages to mix the message of art and fashion, an idea that comes together in his installations. In “Micro Geography: A Cross Section” he creates a fashion environment, in which everything rotates around the figure of a woman that is surrounded by other elements such as plants and has 3 cameras looking. He uses technology in this piece as a way in which to emphasize the fact that the piece watches itself as you are watching it. There is a layer between the viewer and the art piece yet both are doing the exact same thing: staring.

He has collaborated with many other artists like Nick Knight, founder of SHOWstudio, in a creative project to showcase his S/S 08 collection:

These collaborations have helped him to try out different art forms in which he can express his own ideals. They have also helped him to know important people that have been able to help him in several times when he has been in financial crisis. He is now working as the creative director of PUMA allong with having his own line.

Finally, Hussein Chalayan is one of the main avant-garde contemporary fashion designers. He concentrates on trying to transmit his message and inspiration to his viewer by focusing on design, material and presentation, three key elements that are visible in all his pieces. He finds inspiration in life and is constantly paying attention the environment that surrounds him. He makes fashion art.

IMAGE 1: “The Tangent Flows” 1993

IMAGE 2: “The Tangent Flows” detail 1993

IMAGE 3: “Geotropics” S/S 1999

IMAGE 4: “Before Minus Now” S/S 1999

IMAGE 5: “Between” S/S 1998


IMAGE 7: 1995 Wooden Corset

IMAGE 8: detail of corset

IMAGE 9: 1998 “Between”

[i] (accessed May 1st 2010)

[ii] (accessed May 1st 2010)

[iii] (accessed May1st 2010)


1. Stoykov, Lubomir. “Hussein Chalayan: ‘Fashion is a combination of art, profession and product ‘ “ (accessed May 1st 2010)

2. (accessed May 1st 2010)

3. (accessed May 1st 2010)

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