Catch up on the musings of Grazia's Fashion Director Susannah Frankel in her blog, Fashion Victim
How times change. When Hussein Chalayan started out as a fashion designer in the Nineties, the notion of a celebrity taking to the helm of a label was almost unknown. This month Victoria Beckham, newly rebranded a designer in her own right and a respected one worthy of an ‘icons’ collection to boot, appears on the cover of a fashion glossy wearing a neon green tank with oversized ruffle at the waist courtesy of… Hussein Chalayan. And that is great: a confident move on the part of VB if ever there was one and an acknowledgement of the status of a very different and interesting talent.
La Beckham might have undergone a change of identity but it’s heart-warming to note that Hussein remains just the same. He is as true to himself and his craft as he ever was. With that in mind, next Sunday, following in the footsteps of artists including Grayson Perry and David Shrigley, he will conduct a ‘sermon’ (strictly secular) on the subject of Fitting In at The School of Life in London. Sadly, the event is small and there’s no room left at the inn. But, to sum up, Hussein says: “My strategy for creative self-renewal is to be a migrant – dislocated, never settled. The experience of feeling isolated, of not fitting in, creates theurge to explore.”
Hussein Chalaya's airplane and table creations
The designer – who also works as a fine artist – was born in Turkish Cyprus and grew up between that country and England so, physically and even genetically, he has always felt like an outsider. His work, from skirts that turn into table-tops and fiberglass airplane dresses (both among his most famous designs) to, more recently, holographic silver leather and puncturedfluorescent techno fabrics moulded into separates, has always been pioneering, thoughtful and far from conventional. In a world dominated by luxury goods conglomerates, meanwhile, his business remains independent and, while relatively small, his clothes continue to sell to women of taste in search of clothing that resists being pigeon-holed as though it existence depended on it but that is a pleasure to wear.
There are only very few designers who are brave enough to remain out on a limb. Azzedine Alaia is one such as is Comme des Garcons’ Rei Kawakubo. Rick Owens has never bowed down to industry diktats and is doing very nicely for that. So is Haider Ackermann. Of course, the fashion giants – Chanel, Vuitton, Prada, Dior and, in her own way, Beckham herself – continue to dominate and all of them make the world a more lovely place to be. Sometimes, though, it’s good to remember that there is a more under-stated side to fashion that operates outside of the circle. And that magic happens there also.