29 posts tagged "Hussein Chalayan"
Hussein Chalayan is on a hot streak. If you’ll remember, last season he began his new role as the creative director of Vionnet Demi-Couture. He just created the costumes for the L.A. Phil’s Così Fan Tutte, and today WWD reports that after eight years, the designer is reviving his dormant menswear collection. For Spring ’15, Chalayan, known for his cerebral approach to design, will release a twenty-two-look menswear capsule comprising T-shirts, outerwear, sweaters, sweatshirts, and shirting. “We had a really good following,” he said, “especially in the worlds of art and architecture, and our customers haven’t stopped asking about it. Some are still wearing their old clothes.” Surely his fans will be thrilled that they can soon pick up some new threads, but it’s nice to be reminded that good design never goes out of style.
In 2012, it was Rodarte and Frank Gehry. Last year, Azzedine Alaïa and Jean Nouvel had their turn. On Friday, Hussein Chalayan and Zaha Hadid will be the last mega-talents to impose their visions on L.A. Philharmonic’s Mozart/Da Ponte Project. The opera trilogy–Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and Così Fan Tutte, respectively, all conducted by Gustavo Dudamel – has been nothing short of ambitious in partnering architect with fashion designer (or designers, in the case of Rodarte’s Laura and Kate Mulleavy). Even for Chalayan, whose runway shows have often bordered on performances and who is no stranger to conceiving costumes (for Michael Clark’s current/SEE in 1998 and the Saddler’s Wells Theatre in London in 2010), this production challenged his thinking. When the designer spoke to Style.com from London, he was preparing to visit L.A. for the final rehearsals. And unsurprisingly, he remained somewhat elusive on details, only to emphasize that his interpretation of Così Fan Tutte will be contemporary. Certainly his sketches – alternately diaphanous and sculptural – suggest an outright dismissal of late-18th century fashion. They, along with Hadid’s vision for the set, debut exclusively here. With only four performances, it’s a short run for so much effort. But there’s no doubt that the reward will last long past closing night.
There is a long history of fashion designers trying their hand at ballet or opera costumes. How do you explain the appeal?
You put yourself into a different realm. You think of your clothes in a broader context. It’s something different from what you normally do. It helps to also be thinking within a team. You’re thinking not only about your part but all the other parts. Normally with fashion, you can feel quite isolated. I find these experiences kind of nice; you learn and, hopefully, you become culturally richer for it. Simple as that.
When you came on board, the Rodarte/Frank Gehry production had already taken place. Did it guide you at all?
I had not seen it other than in pictures. And remember, I have done collaborations like this, just never with an architect. So I had some ideas; but this was another situation entirely because what I am doing still has to work with what Zaha is doing and [our work] evolved as islands that met and separated and met again, let’s say.
How do the design considerations change when making costumes for performers?
It is very satisfying because your clothes are on realer looking people. And those people have to be in them for a long while. And they have to feel comfortable in them. And look good in them. It wasn’t like I just plunked onto them whatever I wanted; I needed to consider what I felt was right for their neck height, their shoulders, etcetera… It’s the same kind of effort that I would make for my showpieces plus more. Everything had to be done individually for each person. And they were all different sizes and shapes. It was quite a challenge in that sense – but also very enjoyable because these people animate your clothes in a way that you’re not used to. And that adds another dimension to what I’m doing.
Were you familiar Così Fan Tutte already and how did you go about distancing the costumes from typical period pieces?
Well, of course, I had heard of Così Fan Tutte before, but I had never sat down and watched it. So the first thing was obviously to get familiar with the plot. And the whole story is based on infidelity. I interpreted that as clothes that would change function a little bit or have a deceptive element that would appear to be one thing and then become another thing. I think those ideas as represented through clothes is a lot more abstract. But there’s no point in approaching a designer like me to do period costumes. Zaha as well.
Do you think the audience will pick up on these ideas?
To be honest, I think they’re not so in your face. I mean, there’s a lot of texture and color and stuff. But there is a minimalism to them as well. So I’m hoping they won’t become cliché or anything like that. I’m hoping that they will be unexpected.
Indeed, there is always some element of surprise and whimsy with your collections—a dress covered in artificial nails or a hat that doubles as an umbrella. Can we expect any of that in the production?
There’s some of that, yes, but there are no accessories; it’s all within the clothes. A lot of work went into them. Every single piece is quite monumental. With my collections, you have clothes for different occasions; I am always thinking of the wardrobe. But here, if you can imagine, every single piece behaves like occasion wear.
Costumes can shape how characters perceive themselves in addition to how the audience perceives them. Were you keeping both sides in mind?
The idea is not that the costumes take over the characters. The idea is that the costumes create an ingredient to help enhance the characters. It is about the storyline and the feelings that [director Christopher Alden] wanted to portray. I felt I had to honor what he wanted. And we got on harmoniously from the start.
What kind of synergy is there between your costumes and Zaha’s sets?
I knew right from the beginning what Zaha was doing and I went to meetings at her office so I had an idea. But the main way they connect is that there is a sense of change—an element in transformation—in both my clothes and in the sets. Apart from that, it wasn’t like I wanted the clothes to look like an extension of the set or they wanted the set to look like an extension of the clothes.
I have a borderline compulsive addiction to headwear, so you can imagine my delight when I learned that today happens to be National Hat Day (yes, there is such a thing). Seeing as spring is just around the corner, I can’t fathom a better way to celebrate the holiday than by rounding up a few of the season’s best toppers—and there were many to choose from. Carolina Herrera, for instance, sent an oversize black-and-white sun hat with artful, abstract embroidery down her Spring ’14 runway. The classic color combo and dramatic swoosh of its brim are enough to make you feel like you’re sipping rosé on the French Riviera whenever you wear it. Hussein Chalayan‘s ingenious umbrella-hat hybrids are, in my opinion, essential accessories—what better way to brave spring’s showers than with a surreal, waterproof headpiece? Gareth Pugh‘s lavender ostrich chapeau, which looks like a cross between Sam the Eagle and a beefeater’s helmet, is screaming to be worn for a night out on the town (probably not to the theater, though), and Victoria Grant’s Burnout hat—a silver beret that’s garnished with two extra-long cigarettes and golden singe marks—would make quite the conversation piece (not to mention, it would be a fabulous complement to her Velvet Smoke number, which is currently hanging on the hat tree in my bedroom). Stephen Jones’ bedazzled, feather-embellished visor is the only option for a dolled-up game of tennis, and those desiring a bit of quirky glam need look no further than Piers Atkinson’s It’s My Party collection. The milliner’s Swarovski cupcake headband and nail-art-studded hyper cherries are my personal favorites, but in the event that I need to be incognito, this veiled style with an electric-pink mustache would be just the ticket.
On the surface, Madeleine Vionnet—the 1920s and thirties revolutionary known for inventing the bias cut and creating elegant, sculptural, corset-free looks—and Hussein Chalayan—the conceptual daredevil responsible for the bubble dress, wearable furniture, and, most recently, his Spring ’14 hat-umbrella hybrids—don’t appear to have much in common. However, upon further inspection, the grandmother of modern dress and the cerebral Cyprian designer are remarkably similar—namely in their obsessive attention to detail, forward-thinking attitudes toward femininity, and refusal to be slaves to the past. Perhaps that’s why Goga Ashkenazi, who acquired Vionnet in 2012, tapped Chalayan to design the storied house’s demi-couture range. “I can kind of see why they asked me, because of my, let’s say, architectural approach and my interest in geometry,” said Chalayan, whose first Vionnet collection will hit the runway on January 21 during the Couture shows in Paris. “I like to do work that looks new rather than referential. So I think it’s a good collaboration, to be honest.”
Since the announcement of Chalayan’s appointment last week, his forthcoming take on Vionnet’s philosophy has been hotly anticipated. And it will be interesting to see how his presence at the house affects its stature. After laying dormant for more than sixty years, Vionnet was awakened in 2006, and saw a veritable revolving door of designers—some of whom, to put it nicely, didn’t do its namesake justice. Since buying the struggling brand, Ashkenazi (who, in addition to serving as its chairman, is the creative director of the label’s ready-to-wear line) has made a noble effort to restore Vionnet to its former glory. Could Chalayan’s twenty-plus years of boundary-breaking experience be the ticket back to the top? Here, Chalayan talks to Style.com about his debut Vionnet outing; making couture more accessible (if only a little); and why, despite his artistic approach, he’s not just a conceptual designer.
How did Goga Ashkenazi approach you about this project?
Davide Dallomo, who works with Goga, reached out to make the introduction. Then I met Goga in Milan just after the summer. We had a few conversations, and we signed a month before Christmas. Goga liked my initial sketches. We got along right from day one, and I was happy that I was able to realize a lot of my ideas with a few of Goga’s suggestions and changes. We had our first fitting before Christmas, and I’m pretty pleased.
Why did you say yes to Vionnet? Did you have any reservations?
I had to think about it, of course. But when I met Goga, she’s honestly such a life force. She’s got this amazing creative energy. She’s a great entrepreneur, and I thought, “My God, you’re only 33.” Also, she talks about how we’re all honoring Vionnet here. It’s not [Goga's] personal line. Vionnet is such an establishment. It’s got an undisputable heritage, so I thought it might be an exciting thing to do.
Vionnet was a revolutionary in the twenties and thirties, and her work has been inspiring designers for almost a century now. Is it intimidating to design clothes that bear her name?
No, because it’s not old Vionnet. This is a modern interpretation of Vionnet, and the whole idea is to keep her name going. I don’t think there’s pressure because we’re not trying to replicate what she did. We’re trying to work through her spirit. We live in different times. I’d like to think that she’d be pleased with it. It shouldn’t be seen as intimidating. I like to be positive about it rather than to think, “Oh, my God, how am I going to manage?”
In the last decade, several heritage houses have been revived to varying degrees of success. As a designer with a distinct point of view, what do you think it takes to respectfully work for and thrive at a heritage brand?
The whole idea is to look at what Vionnet would have done if she were living in this place and time. We are genuinely looking at the principles and the worldview that Vionnet had, and thinking about how that could be interpreted for now. There are already parallels in my work because of my interest in graphicism and sculptural forms and their relationship to the body. But it’s about honoring the brand. It’s not about my brand. It’s a different kind of responsibility from doing your own thing. The whole project is surrounded by a big sense of responsibility to do the right thing, and to respect Vionnet. Of course, my name will be associated with it, but honestly, it’s an honorary project.
While haute couture can soar into the six-figure price range, demi-couture sticks at a still daunting—but more accessible—five figures. Why is that? And can you speak to the difference between the two practices?
It has nothing to do with the nature or the preciousness of the garments. It’s to do with the number of fittings that the client gets. The fittings are what really raise the cost, so we will do one fitting only, as opposed to ten fittings.
What is the relevance of couture today, whether it be demi-couture or haute couture? How do you think it fits into the fashion landscape in this economic climate?
Goga is the director of Vionnet, and its owner, but she’s also a couture customer. So one thing she was saying is that you spend endless amounts of money on the fittings, and that’s why she wants to do demi-couture. In this economic landscape, it’s a very good way of looking at couture—you are still offering highly refined garments, but customers are saving on the costs because of the reduced number of fittings. That’s quite a good move on her part. Continue Reading “Hussein Chalayan on His “Unobvious,” “Intelligent-Sexy” Vision for Vionnet” »
It’s going to be an exciting couture season this January, full of fresh perspectives from old favorites. As we’re sure you’ve heard, Marco Zanini will present his debut collection for the revived house of Schiaparelli on January 20, and today, we’ve learned that conceptual fashion provocateur, Hussein Chalayan, has been tapped by the storied house of Vionnet to design its demi-couture collection, which was launched in Spring ’13. Chalayan will unveil his first outing for the brand in Paris on January 21. Goga Ashkenazi, Vionnet’s chairman and creative director who acquired the label in 2012 after a tumultuous round of designer switch-ups, told WWD she was “extremely happy about this collaboration,” and added that Chalayan is “a true artist, very conceptual, he thinks out of the box and has a strong architectural approach. He represents what Madeleine Vionnet represented in her era.” We have to admit, we’re excited to see what kind of cerebral kick that Chalayan—the man who, over the last twenty years, has been responsible for everything from the original bubble dress, to LED frocks, to conical wooden skirts—might bring to the house.