Hussein Chalayan (British, born Cyprus, 1970)
Fiberglass, metal, cotton, synthetic; L. at center back 37 in. (94 cm)
Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2006 (2006.251a–c)
Hussein Chalayan's collections are an articulation of his immediate conceptual and philosophical preoccupations as well as his fascination with materials and techniques as they might be applied to his métier. Chalayan is an artist whose extraordinary intellectual rigor is supported by an equally vigorous pursuit of perfected technique. Engaged by issues of gender, politics, science, nature, and history, Chalayan informs his presentations with designs that are often less apparel than sculpture. Typically, he presents iconic dress forms as actors, as in his meditation and commentary on the burkha, transforming what is ordinarily a commercial presentation into a performance piece or installation art.
This dress is an edition of one that was first shown in Chalayan's spring/summer 2000 collection. Like the original, it is made of a composite material created from fiberglass and resin cast in a specially designed mold. Also like the original, it has side and rear flaps that open to reveal a mass of frothy pink tulle. While these flaps are operated manually in this model, in the original they were operated mechanically by remote control. The prototype was itself a permutation of two earlier models in which Chalayan explored ideas about the relationship between nature, culture, and technology. Chalayan's description of all three models as "monuments"—that is to say, "monuments to ideas"—is as much a comment about his process as his practice of design.