It's been 20 years since Hussein Chalayan set up his eponymous fashion label and to celebrate Grazia's Fashion Director Susannah Frankel interviewed the designer, a Central Saint Martins alumni, at the Regent Street Apple Store. Chalayan is behind shows that have included a polished wood table turning into a skirt and mechanical dresses that transform from Victorian to Space Age before his audience's eyes, so it's little wonder that he's know as one of the fashion world's most original thinkers. Read an extract of the 'Meet The Designer' talk below and download it in full for free from the iTunes store.
Susannah Frankel: What do you think about backstage before a show?
Hussein Chalayan: There's a different story each time. Sometimes we take a lot of risks. Things can go wrong, you worry about things going wrong. So if there's a garment that goes from one shape to another and a model has to do something you worry about whether she's going to get it right. I’m always focusing on that and then afterwards it is such a relief. I think it’s good that we do them though because I always feel better for doing a show.
Susannah: Is it difficult when everyone rushes backstage afterwards?
Hussein: You know it really matters that the people you care about come backstage. You work on that collection for six months and you haven’t seen a lot of your friends for a long time and if they're people in the industry then you know and respect their opinion. It’s a really nice feeling and it does mean a lot to me. I’m always really appreciative; I actually don’t get annoyed you know.
Susannah: How does it make you feel when you see people wearing your clothes?
Hussein: It's the strangest and greatest feeling. You want to know the person, when they bought it and what they think about it. I could be in a grocery store or a corner shop and see someone with a piece of mine from years ago and I would walk up to them and say 'oh I like your jacket' and then that starts a conversation and then they realise that I'm the designer and it's exciting. Its nice to see who buys it as well because it's the most unexpected people.
Susannah: How do you want people to feel in your clothes?
Hussein: I guess empowered, sensual, confident, all those things I hope. Happy and also free in some way.
Susannah: Some designers have become celebrities - they have become their brand. Could your brand be called something completely different that didn't have your name in it for example?
Hussein: Possibly, but I'm too attached to it to separate myself. I go to work everyday, apart from Friday which it my research day. I am just doing it and not thinking about how I will be perceived or should be perceived.
Question from the audience: In 10 years’ time where do you see your brand going?
Hussein: My biggest dream is to get into retail because you create your own world then, and I suppose to get into new product categories. But retail is my ideal ibecause it’s the only way you can show your world in a complete way and in a way you want it to be seen. So I feel like that’s what Im gravitating towards definitely and we're constantly meeting different people who are offering different things but I'd say the important thing is to take the right steps because so quickly you can feel like you’re in a prison if you're not with the right partner and you do see designers suffering from that. It’s one thing to grow, but do it with caution.