Wednesday, 24 April 2013


Having recently collaborated on an an essay exploring the relationship between fashion and utility (you can read here if you're interested!), it made me consider the real definition of fashion - many define the likes of couture as 'wearable art', yet many of fashion's most iconic pieces have been far from wearable in everyday life. Perhaps the best example of this comes from Hussein Chalayan and his innovative A/W 2000 collection, a collection which saw him win the British Designer of the Year award for a second consecutive time.

One of the most interesting aspects of Chalayan's approach to design is that his collections are always focussed around a concept, and his garments usually have several different functions. Even with his latest collection Chalayan displayed a series of stunning gowns that were shown on the runway to be reversible, which in some ways does incorporate the notion of utility into his designs. What is perhaps ironic is that, in theory, Chalayan's designs are incredibly practical - this A/W 2000 collection, for example, saw him display the now-legendary Table Dress, a garment which literally is a table and a dress. All that the model must do is step into the centre of the table, pull up the folding slats and attach them to her belt loops, a genius design which had never before been seen by the fashion industry. However, it is at this point that we must ask ourselves whether or not we would ever walk the streets wearing a dress fashioned from a wooden table - a question to which the answer is, most probably, no.

The Table Dress was, however, the most extreme example of Chalayan's designs. Presented partly as a traditional runway show and partly as a presentation (an art installation almost?), the latter half of the show saw models strip the covers from four armchairs and precede to unfold them into four simple, elegant gowns, whereas the show opened with a series of people of all ages sat down, wearing clothes which dramatically unravelled as they stood up. For its sheer innovation this collection has gone down as one of the greatest in history and gained Chalayan a cult following for his unique approach to fashion design. In some ways his minimalism and invention go hand in hand - perhaps his genius lies in the way in which he takes mundane objects such as furniture and incorporates them into avant-garde collections. Although his designs are simplistic in aesthetic, they are never simple in concept.

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