Chalayan is a designer who pushes clothes to the point where they become sculpture, furniture or even architecture. While most fashion design seems to be obsessed with glamour, Chalayan's work is conceptual and political. Chalayan is inspired by architectural theories, science and technology. He is a self styled ideas person who forges unexpected alliances between clothing, imagery, built structures and technology. Chalayan is a thinker who refutes the premise that fashion and the other creative disciplines are separate entities.
He stands for linear and architectural design, fabrics as crisp as their graphic lines, a visceral connection to an era of speed and aerodynamics as well as integrity which makes each collection truly original. Original because he thinks in visual terms.
Starting his career by presenting at his graduation show clothes that had been buried in the earth,Chalayan once told that he does not see his work in terms of collections but in terms of projects. In many ways the clothes are by products of the concepts he works with if not actually monuments to the ideas. Yet he is still a designer for real clothes. He says that he does produce clothes that create a new space for the body.
There are many things to write about Hussein Chayan: Designs such as the Remote Control Dress, used digital signals to relay messages by a remote control device, highlighting the role that technology can play in transforming the fashioned body. He made garments that became metaphors of flight, such as the lightweight Airmail Clothing that could be written on, folded into an envelope sealed and posted. The “Echoform “collection including aerodynamic dresses with architectonic components that mimicked aircraft interiors, and perhaps the most striking of his collections, “Afterwords”, where garments transformed into pieces of furniture. The chairs featured slipcovers that could be worn as dresses and they could be converted into suitcases by collapsing their frames. A round table transformed into an accordion like skirt by removing a rounded disc from the table’s center, pulling the inside edge up over the hips and attaching into the waist.
This paper focuses on the innovative dressmaking of Chalayan and the making of of them.
SELF TRANSFORMING DRESS( S/S 2007)
Hussein Chalayan’ Spring/Summer 2007 collection features clothes that wriggle, unfold, collapse, and transform by themselves. In the final act a piece began as a dress, morphed into a hat, then rained down as a cloud of Swarovski crystal dust. An animatronic couture described by Style.com: “The girl walked in and stood stock-still, dressed in a long, high-necked corseted Victorian gown. Then her clothes began to twitch, move, and reconfigure of their own accord. The mono-bosom top opened, the jacket retreated, the hemline started to rise, and—finally, amazingly—there she was, wearing a crystal-beaded flapper dress: a woman propelled through fashion history from 1895 to the twenties in the space of a minute. This was one of six incredible feats of technology and conceptual commentary at the heart of Hussein Chalayan's show.
In order to create such effects, monofilament cables are held in hollow tubes that will be sewn into the garment. The wires within the tubes connect to motors at the bottom of the dress. The motors reel in wires attached to the outer layer of the garment, altering its shape. The finished bum pad contains the motors used to transform the dress, as well as the batteries and circuitry required to control the motors. Straps along the shoulder move when wires are pulled to alter the style of the sleeves.
Pulling on the wires within the yellow tubes causes the garment to change shape, creating a bustle.
Hussein Chalayan spent six months developing these five mechanical dresses which self-transformed on the runway with Moritz Waldemeyer, a previous researcher on robotics at Philips. This special knowledge got him together one day in 2006 with Hussein Chalayan and ended up building those famous Wearable Electronic Fashion dresses. Waldemeyer devised the control electronics for a complex set of micromotors with tiny pulleys and nearly invisible cables.: ‘Mechatronics is simply a combination of mechanics and electronics’.
The technology, which is embedded into corsets and pads under fabric, is still cumbersome, but without further experimentation by fashion designers and manufacturers, a more streamlined version for repeat production will remain elusive, according to the studio that turned Chalayan's sketches into catwalk outfits, 2D3D.
LED DRESS (A/W 2007/8)
In the second collaboration with Cahalayan for the Autumn/Winter 2007/8 collection, designer-engineer Waldemeyer produced dresses with full video capability: each is covered with 15,000 individually controllable LED (light-emitting diodes), s, meaning the surface of the dresses can display video imagery. The dress shows a time lapse of a rose opening and closing up, in a spectacular display of colors and light, created from 15.000 LEDs that are embedded in the fabric.
Chalayan referred to his high-tech protective wear as "winter relief components." They included an eerily glowing hat, designed to emit light in the dark winter; front panels like aprons from the International Space Station on fresh blue-and-white striped dresses; and an electronic hood rising from the nape like a wave.
In this unique work with Swarovski,Chalayan based his collection on the four seasons. That produced a beautiful dress expressing the rites of spring, displayed as an abstract film that flickered on the body, as if on a television screen.
LASER DRESS WITH SWAROVSKI CRISTALS (S/S 2008)
S/S 2008 show closes with a Chalayan creation of light emanating via 200 moving lasers and Swarovski crystals. Is this fashion? Is it architecture? It certainly is not ready-to-wear. But with so much in architecture transformed by technology from futuristic concept to reality, fashion may also develop extraordinary new ways of covering our skin and bones.
The Swarovski laser dress is an evolution based on Chalayan’s Mechanical Dress and his LED Dress. It uses hundreds of servo motor driven tiny lasers diodes.The laser diodes are integrated into the garments, illuminating the Swarovski crystals in the garments and then move away to interact with the surrounding mirrors.The crystals are sewn inside the folds of the dress so that light has the effect of coming from inside the body. With this performance, Hussein Chalayan wanted to remind us the celebrities, the sun warship performers
Another version of it are dresses where lights are orbiting the center of the universe - that means the wearer of such a dress.
. CAR CRASH (S/S 2009)
For the finale of the S/S 2009 show, models came out in molded latex dresses hand-painted with images of crashed cars, sleek currents frozen around them, like monuments to a bygone era. The skirts tipped up at the back like fins or molded into whipped-cream peaks extending from the back to appear in blurry motion.Some surfaces of the dresses stimulated broken glass, fitting to the champagne glasses that were smashed to the floor at the final. The British designer’s dresses represent the extreme pace in which the world is living, and the inevitable doomed future he envisions. The idea was repeated in prints of tangled car parts and snippets of license plates and zooming-by street scenes on minidresses.
There are so many themes which surface in the work of this always innovative , always questioning designer but one which is especially persistant is multiculturalism, the juxtaposition of Western and Non Western aesthetics and attitudes. He is making us think, and combined with technology and usage of different materials he can create a new dimension to our future clothing.
You Tube , interviews with Chalayan,
Swarovskisparkles.tv is the ‘Making of’ the Crystal Dress
In association with Groninger Museum, Groningen.
Exhibition: April 17 - September 4, 2005, Groninger Museum, Groningen
IHT, Suzy Menkes article 1 Feb 2007
IHT, Suzy Menkes article April 28 2008
IHT , Rob Young article, 2 oct 2007