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April 19 2014

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27 posts tagged "Hussein Chalayan"

Hats On for Hat Day

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hats

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.

Hussein Chalayan on His “Unobvious,” “Intelligent-Sexy” Vision for Vionnet

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Hussein Chalayan

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” »

Hussein Chalayan Takes the Reins at Vionnet Demi-Couture

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Hussein ChalayanIt’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.

Photos: Marcus Tondo/ Indigitalimages.com

On Our Radar: Steven Tai

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Steven Tai Spring '14

You may remember Steven Tai from Spring ’14′s VFiles show, where the 29-year-old Central Saint Martins graduate presented his crisp range of sporty, silkscreened looks. But winning a spot in the fashion platform’s debut runway event isn’t Tai’s only claim to fame. In fact, the talent, who’s based in London by way of Macao, had been making the rounds in Europe and Canada for over a year before the VFiles romp. In 2012, his visually simple but technically mind-boggling designs won the Chloe award at the prestigious Hyeres festival; he’s been invited to show everywhere from Berlin to Toronto; and he’s already amassed a healthy crop of international stockists, VFiles, Canada’s Holt Renfrew, and London’s 125 Brick Lane among them. Tai now seems poised for fashion stardom, so it’s somewhat ironic that he spent most of his childhood trying to escape the garment game.

“My family did manufacturing for very technical sportswear, like bicycle gear for triathlons,” Tai told Style.com by phone from Hong Kong, where he was researching techniques and textiles. “I grew up around seamstresses and, as a kid, clothing was like the last thing I wanted to do.” However, while earning his business degree in Canada, Tai had a revelation. “I realized that I wanted to do something creative, and at the same time, a friend actually introduced me to Style.com, and the archive just opened up this whole new world for me.”

Steven Tai Pre-Fall

He enrolled in London’s competitive Saint Martins’ BA program and, when the designer wasn’t in classroom, he did stints at Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf, Hussein Chalayan, and Damir Doma.

It’s easy to see that his mentors taught him well. Tai’s work is impeccably crafted using various, unexpected processes. For example, Spring ’14 incorporated laser cutting, silk screening, bonding, and puff paint accents, as well as a fractured pastoral motif. The latter was derived from photographs of a British bio-dome that were abstracted by artist Lola Dupré. “I’m always quite nostalgic for the past, so I wanted to start with something very traditional, and combine it with something technical and futuristic,” Tai explained of the lineup, which was inspired by cross-stitching and glitch art. As for his pared-down cuts, Tai offered, “At Saint Martins, nothing you can do is crazy enough. I learned from that, but it’s important to have a balance. Technology and textiles are the crazy parts of my collection. It’s all about these insane, complicated procedures, and the silhouette stays simple—otherwise, it gets a bit overwhelming.”

Fall ’14 will mark Tai’s first time presenting his wares in a Somerset House showroom at London fashion week. “The collection is a lot more deconstructed than last season,” he hinted. “The inspiration is shredded papers.” To tide fans over between the Spring and Fall drops, Tai has once again teamed up with Dupré, this time to create a range of Pre-Fall sweatshirts that will be available at select retailers and on Tai’s Web site this April. Priced between $296 and $740, the graphic, Swarovski crystal-embellished scuba jersey jumpers debut above, exclusively on Style.com.

Photos: Courtesy of Steven Tai

Isabella Blow: Beyond the Eccentric

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2. Isabella Blow, 2002 (c) Diego UchitelCurator Alistair O’Neill only met the late Isabella Blow once. He was at an art opening with designer Julien Macdonald, one of the late, great Blow’s charges, whom he studied with at the Royal College of Art. “Isabella was wearing a famous Philip Treacy hat, which is in the exhibition. It had feathers around the eyes, which covered her nose and her mouth and her forehead,” he recalled. “I spent the evening talking to her and was completely fascinated. But all that I could concentrate on were her eyes, because I couldn’t really see her mouth. I could only just about listen to what she was saying, and I was just mesmerized by this image of these eyes being framed by the feathers. The combination of her intelligence and her laughing was really intoxicating,” he continued. “I’ve never forgotten that.”

On November 20, O’Neill, along with Shonagh Marshall and Central Saint Martins, will aim to bring the editor, patron, and muse’s work and wardrobe to life with the opening of Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! at the Somerset House in London. Before her tragic suicide, in 2007, Blow was a pillar of London’s emerging fashion community. Having worked everywhere—from British and American Vogue to The Sunday Times to Tatler—Blow is credited with discovering such designers as Alexander McQueen (as the story goes, she bought his entire graduate collection after it walked down the Central Saint Martins Runway in 1992), milliner Philip Treacy, Jeremy Scott, and Hussein Chalayan, as well as models Sophie Dahl (whom she once described as a “blow-up doll with brains”) and Stella Tennant.

Alexander McQueen and Isabella blow

Aside from being a steadfast supporter of young talents (Treacy and McQueen both lived with her at one point, and she not only gave the designers financial and editorial support but also fed them ideas from her wealth of historical knowledge—fashion and otherwise), Blow, who came from a complicated aristocratic background, was known as a great eccentric—both in her behavior and her dress. Her infamous wardrobe comprised the most extreme pieces by all of the conceptual up-and-comers she helped along the way. And, of course, Treacy’s hats were her screaming signature. Following her death, her sartorial collection was to be sold at Christie’s to settle her estate, but Blow’s friend Daphne Guinness swooped in at the last minute and purchased every piece, because that’s how Isabella—or Issy, as she was known—would have wanted it.

O’Neill, however, did not want to simply paint Blow as an eccentric. “I thought it was important to distance Isabella from those literary ideas of the English eccentric, because they’re often quite tragic,” he explained. “And I’m not sure Isabella was fully tragic—she was quite brave, and very funny. She had a very bored and black humor.” Furthermore, Blow always wore her outfits—whether it be a metallic McQueen corset or an ensemble crafted from brightly hued garbage bags—in a deeply considered manner. “Isabella used her clothes, her hats, and her accessories as a means to modify and transform herself,” said O’Neill. “She had a great eye for silhouette, and her hats were almost a means of plastic surgery for her face, without going under the knife,” added Marshall. “She said they can lift you, they can make you look different, and I think that was something that she really indulged in.” Continue Reading “Isabella Blow: Beyond the Eccentric” »