Sunday, 15 February 2009

Hussein Chalayan review for Arts London News

Chris Moore: Inertia

Technology isn’t the first thought that springs to mind when considering the world of fashion. But it is this, mixed with philosophy, anthropology and science that are at the forefront of former Central Saint Martin student Hussein Chalayan’s designs. The twice named British designer of the year, MBE and creative director of Puma graduated from CSM in 1993 but this exhibition, now showing at the Design Museum, is the first comprehensive presentation of Chalayan’s work in the UK. His work spans fifteen years of experimental projects, right up until his most recent collections.

Each garment on show has a fantastical quality, leaving the viewer in awe and wonder at how such a piece could have been created. Chalayan is known for merging his meticulous pattern cutting skills with futuristic qualities. This can be most obviously seen in Readings, his Spring/Summer collection 2008. Two dresses, a jacket and a hat are brought to life with 200 moving scarlet lasers, attached by custom hinges, each with their own motor. The lasers start by reflecting off the Swarovski crystal adorned garment, moving gradually away from the body. The effect is like something out of the Matrix.

His most recent collection, named Inertia is created from the combination of speed and technology and its implications on our lives. The dresses are solid, yet molded in a way to suggest fast movement. It is also clear that Chalayan has put a considerable amount of thought in to how his exhibition would look. Inertia is displayed on mannequins that have their eyes closed due to the constant stream of blowing air from a hidden fan as well as creating movement in their hair.

In contrast to the futuristic inspirations, the exhibition delves in the world of nature and weather cycles. Chalayan used a huge bale of netted fabric and cut in to it to create the classic shape of a prom dress. This is inspired by the way that mountains have been shaped by nature, mainly weather-induced erosion. When this creation was shown on the runway, a carbon fibre Remote Control Dress covered it. Panels of this remotely controlled shell were then opened to reveal the soft-netted prom dress underneath. The idea of this was to cross over 2 main ideas; the fact that nature and weather is so uncontrollable, next to the human tendency to want to control all parts of life. But don’t be put off by the deep-rooted meanings; it’s still an incredible dress to look at.

Another section for all the fashionista’s out there is Ambimorphous Autumn/ Winter 2002. This collection combines many concepts, such as space, time, mechanical and ethical but sewn together to create what is called the ‘morph process’. We see a series of photographs documenting the morph from embroidered traditional Turkish costume to a long black ‘Western’ coat. The concept of mechanics was shown in the restriction of movement due to leather straps across the Westernised coat. But, concepts aside, marvel at the ornate embroidered stitching, as well at the intricate beading across the traditional dress.
Chalayan’s fascination of technology continues through to his art installations with his interest in the concept of flight and movement. Airports have always been considered a border between his life in London and his Turkish Cypriot heritage. Repose Autumn/Winter 2006 shows a bright white, aircraft wing protruding from the wall with a Swarovski encrusted flap moving slowly up and down. The crystals are again illuminated with Chalayan’s favourite, LED lights. Passenger seats have been placed outside the aircraft, relating to the absurdity of the idea of flight and it’s out of body experience.

To complete all aspects of Chalayan’s artistic nature, there are screens showing short films that he has directed, including ‘Anaesthetics’, a 22 minute long film which is both compelling but uncomfortable to watch. With scenes such as the gutting of a live fish and a blind folded young girl, waving a revolver directly at you, it’s not for the faint hearted but is open to interpretation.
Each year and season has its own specific meaning yet the 15-year collection somehow manages to fold in to one. The exhibition is full of hidden delights so make sure you go exploring; go from fashion and back.

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