Hussein Chalayan has often been dubbed fashion's resident mad scientist, and the British designer's avant-garde creations continually push the boundaries of what the human body can wear. One season he devises a coffee table that transforms into a wooden skirt, while another season he creates an entire collection from the sturdy envelope paper known as Tyvek. (Björk donned a jacket in said material for the cover of her album Post). Still, as Style.com's Sarah Mower notes, Chalayan has lately "demonstrated that he's reached the stage of maturity where his ability to articulate significant symbolism only enhances, rather than obscures, the excitement of his abilities as a fashion designer."
Chalayan's most accomplished technological achievement to date was on display during his Spring 2007 show in Paris. Collaborating with the animatronic design team that worked on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he took his audience on a lightning-speed journey through style history, configuring "robodresses" that morphed in seconds from a Victorian gown to a crystal-beaded flapper dress or from an hourglass metallic shift with a broad-brimmed hat to a Paco Rabanne confection complete with a cap and visor. For the grand finale, a ballerina dress was absorbed by an enormous hat that then spouted a puff of sparkling dust. "In a season when the future of fashion was being furiously debated," wrote Vogue of the spectacle, "this was more than a decisive moment. It was magic."
Born in Cyprus, Chalayan moved to England at age 12 and attended Central Saint Martins. His graduate collection, which included designs he had buried with iron fillings to see how the material would decompose, launched him onto the international scene. He earned consecutive British Designer of the Year nods in 1999 and 2000, followed by an appointment in 2001 as creative director of Asprey, a position he held for four years. In 2008, he inked a deal to serve as the creative director of Puma, making him the first fashion designer to head up a major sports label. Not surprisingly, Chalayan's namesake brand recently expanded into footwear.
Hussein Chalayan: Fall 2010 RTW
Runway, backstage, and front-row footage from the Paris show.