How Quickly a Quarter of a Century Goes in Fashion: Chalayan is Turning 25

It has been 25 years since Hussein Chalayan unleashed his vivid imagination on the fashion industry as the man behind a million avant-garde and cerebral ideas that spanned dresses made from aeroplane parts to those that could fold up and fit in envelopes. 

Chalayan Fall/Winter 2019 menswear show in London. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

“I’m 48 and I started when I was 23,” said the designer in disbelief backstage at his Autumn/Winter 2019 menswear show in London, held in the designer’s pristine Mayfair boutique. “For us to have this store is a really big deal; we work like an independent brand,” he explained while mulling over what kinds of celebrations might take place in March to mark a quarter of a century – surviving – in fashion. “Give me ideas! I’m really stuck!”

Suggesting that it will likely have to include some of his notable innovative gems from the past (his dug-up graduate collection of 1993, his LED-embedded dresses of Autumn/Winter 2007 perhaps?), he also revealed that it [the womenswear] would be the start of a new direction for the brand which has built its aesthetic on precise technical and technological design. “So we’ll see...”

Of his Autumn/Winter 2019 menswear collection, he reflected how that too had incorporated its fair share of complexities. “The cutting techniques were new to me; everything.” We saw trousers that had additional panels at their front, blouson shapes that featured crosses that hugged the body. The idea was that everything could be worn more than one way – apparently those panels could make for a belt on another occasion. 

Chalayan had taken his inspiration from the idea of pretension – an often used descriptor for people in the creative industries, he felt, and no doubt one he, too, has been on the receiving end of given how his idea of design plentifully lends itself to outside-of-the-box thinking. 

Chalayan Fall/Winter 2019 menswear show in London. Photos by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

“I liked the idea of using pretension as a subject,” he said. “Pretension as a means to transport you. I think of it as a positive thing.” So he drew on a selection of outdoor references – or languages as he described them – such as riding, skiing, fetish, to combine a range of aesthetics and techniques and fuse them all together. What could seemingly be perceived as neon lipstick on the model was, in fact, a reference to ski suncream, references running a little deeper than at first glance.

To the backdrop of the complaint that London is lacking in big menswear names right now, arguably Chalayan is proof that what it may lack in quantity, it has in quality – because 25 years is nothing to be sniffed at.