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Hussein Chalayan's Fashion Narrative

The conceptual designer shows off work from throughout his successful career in a new retrospective exhibition in Paris

On Monday evening, Hussein Chalayan’s retrospective at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs opened – one that grandly pays homage to the Cyprus-born, London-trained designer. Entitled 'Fashion Narratives', the shows tells a myriad of sartorial tales, ranging from found videos to collaboration with Nick Knights, stylized burqas to electric dresses. Dazed Digital met Hussein Chalayan and talked about the relation between catwalk and museum, fashion stories, and beauty.

Dazed Digital: The show is called 'Fashion Narrative', what story about fashion are you telling the viewer?
Hussein Chalayan:
Why don’t you decide for yourself? There are so many stories, so many projects, it’s from so many years: old shows that become installations, old work that has already been shown, and also brand new work. One theme is totally different to another.

DD: So it’s a multitude of narrative, where we can all read something in it for ourselves?
Hussein Chalayan: Yes exactly - although I don’t think you need to read anything, you can just think it’s beautiful and that’s OK. At the end of the day I’m an aesthetic person and i create stories that I can actually design. It’s a story of everything, general life, and what you read into it, but you can also step back and enjoy it’s beauty.

DD: So if something is visually pleasing, is it enough for it to belong in a museum?
Hussein Chalayan: Yes, why not ? What’s museum-worthy in my view is something that deserves a closer look, and it’s up to the audience how long they spend looking at it. So essentially it’s about things you can spend your time around. In fashion, a catwalk goes so quick, but in a museum, the viewer decides.

DD: Is there anything you are especially proud of in the exhibition?
Hussein Chalayan: They mark different stages in my work, there is so much more than we have that we can’t put in a museum. I do like the Dolce Far Niente pieces (dresses that appear to float but materialized into alien-like plastic). But you know, they all mark different periods of my life.

Hussein Chalayan's 'Fashion Narratives' is at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs until November 21, 2011

Photos by Clement Dauvent