I want­ed my shows to be a cul­tur­al expe­ri­ence for the audi­ence, but news­pa­pers put, say, my bub­ble dress on the front page to sell papers, and it would make peo­ple think that I was an ‘artist’, and not inter­est­ed in mak­ing wear­able clothes.
Hus­sein Cha­layan


Hus­sein Cha­layan became known as a ‘con­cep­tu­al design­er’ in the 1990s and it’s been bug­ging him ever since. Rather than get­ting atten­tion for his more extra­or­di­nary designs (there have been dress­es made of giant plas­tic bub­bles, a table turn­ing into a skirt, LED lights and lasers incor­po­rat­ed into gar­ments as well as black chadors either cov­er­ing or expos­ing the naked bod­ies of his mod­els), he would like the focus to be on his wear­able clothes, the stuff that peo­ple actu­al­ly buy. But shift­ing per­cep­tions is hard to do. Espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing that the fash­ion press loves a good spec­ta­cle. For Hus­sein this has meant that he has spent years con­sult­ing and design­ing for oth­ers, and occa­sion­al­ly sell­ing his work as art to fund his fash­ion col­lec­tions. He has made films rather than cat­walk shows, and invit­ed buy­ers to come and look at his tai­lor­ing up close. But still he is strug­gling. Depart­ment stores are reluc­tant to stock his work, and spe­cial­i­ty stores rarely order enough to keep a design­er in busi­ness. Hus­sein Cha­layan describes him­self as ‘a sto­ry­teller with clothes’, but where do sto­ry­tellers fit into a world that pre­miers sta­tus over inde­pen­dence and finan­cial might over cre­ative fear­less­ness?