Often fashion designers refuse to exist in the real world. They create a beautiful fantasy; they design their personal escape and tell us stories of the make believe world they insistently dwell. So what happens when a designer is instead planted firmly in the harsh reality that the rest of us exist within - can he draw the same level of beauty, mystique and glamour? Hussein Chalayan proves he can. Conflict in Kosovo, the destructive madness of men, spilled blood the color of poppies in the Springtime...rarely will you find fashion collections that draw influence so heavily from social, political and economic issues. Hussein Chalayan is a rare man. His designs are inspired by serious cultural issues and yet he understands that his audience may never know, or even care, what the point behind the collection is. Thus he succeeds in two ways by creating something culturally relevant while also presenting something aesthetically beautiful. The ideas and the fashions can stand alone but when they are both understood, the impact is staggering. Chalayan has been designing for over 17 years now and has always existed on a plane of his own somewhere between fashion, architecture and design. His shows are mixed media - the clothes presented in combination with sculpture, furniture, video and special effects - to create a mesmerizing effect. It's so far beyond that you almost forget it's all wearable! We were lucky enough to stop by his exhibit this past weekend at Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris and it was ba-na-nas. Before we get to that, let's take a little trip down memory lane and explore some of Chalayan's past work. [caption id="attachment_4384" align="aligncenter" width="467" caption="Airborne Collection SS07: LED laser dresses in collaboration with Swarovski"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4385" align="aligncenter" width="457" caption="Ambimorphous AW02: an investigation of power and powerlessness inspired by Wabi-sabi, a Japanese worldview"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4387" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="Before Minus Now SS00: using aircraft construction materials, Chalayan created a dress that changes form via remote control to explore the relationship between man, technology and nature"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4388" align="aligncenter" width="964" caption="Between SS98: examining the depersonalizing effect of religion, the show ended with 6 models wearing chadors of varying length - one just a veil and the other floor length"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4389" align="aligncenter" width="457" caption="Manifest Destiny SS03: interested in imperial expansion, Chalayan treated the body as a state to be conquered and allowed to clothing to claim territory - even to the point where it was left unrecognizable"][/caption] The collections are so interesting to read up on as he does such a killer job of taking ideas apart and reconstructing them both intellectually while also on the body. His collections are never meant for protest, just discussion. There is a beautiful simplicity to the way he applies concepts to the clothing, an intelligence behind the design that is truly just incredible. If you like what you see definitely check out his personal blog!