Hussein Chalayan is the first to admit he’s a “designer’s designer.” Just don’t call him avant-garde. “I hate that term,” says the London-based Chalayan, over a macchiato at Manhattan’s Soho Grand Hotel. “It’s a real hindrance because I don’t think it expresses what we’re about. It makes it sound like we can’t appeal to people or something, and it’s absolutely rubbish.”
The reason for Chalayan’s midsummer trip to New York is a case in point: His collaboration with American denim label J Brand on three styles of jeans, launched exclusively at Barneys New York. If the idea of a designer known for his experimental runway shows, replete with mechanical dresses and LED effects, designing jeans — for a fairly accessible line at that — registers to some as selling out, to others, it’s the ultimate example of fashion’s current fixation: Getting down to business.
Now 14 years into his career, Chalayan, 38, is pursuing a balance between creativity and commerce. “It’s like a ball and chain,” he says. “I don’t feel they’re separate.” That’s a revelation he fully embraced in February of last year, when he accepted the position as creative director of Puma, as well as its bid for a majority stake in his company, which in turn brought in the brass from PPR, Puma’s majority investor. Such a corporate connection was something Chalayan wrestled with. “I had been made other offers before that I didn’t think were good enough,” he says. “But this was a very good exchange, a strategic partnership. I felt if I didn’t do this, my brand wouldn’t move on enough.” Chalayan considers himself lucky to have gotten in with PPR before the financial crisis hit. And in addition to the obvious cash incentive and stability that come with Puma/PPR, so does the opportunity to integrate technology into design at Puma and the fact that it doesn’t conflict with his own collection. “It’s not like doing Givenchy or something,” says Chalayan (perhaps a swipe at two other well-known British designers, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen). Incidentally, another free-gift-with-purchase is one of fashion’s biggest power players: François-Henri Pinault, PPR chairman and chief executive officer, whom Chalayan has met and admires. “[Pinault] obviously knows my history; he’s obviously interested in creative designers,” says Chalayan. “It’s a very rare attribute [in a businessman]. He could have not taken any interest in designers. He could have only taken an interest in strategy.” (Chalayan is also partnering with Comme des Garçons on a fragrance.)
While Chalayan considers his deal with PPR a positive and necessary step, he takes issue with other big business partnerships — in particular, the model-turned-designer phenomenon, which Chalayan is “weirded out by.”
“If you have a really strong sense of style and people want to aspire to being like you, I can understand that,” he says. “But if you really are doing it just because you think of yourself as a brand and you haven’t had the training and you know nothing about clothes, it kind of demeans all the training that designers have had.” Perhaps, but the model has proved tried and true in more than one case (Kate Moss, Erin Wasson x RVCA, Elle Macpherson).
“But what happens?” he asks. “Should the stores support that? Where is it going?”
Moss is among the few whom Chalayan views as credible. Still, her Topshop efforts haven’t passed muster. “I don’t think it represented her, and I didn’t think she worked hard enough. I even told her to her face.”
“She said, ‘Oh, I’m just trying to do a light thing; I’m not trying to do anything serious,’” recalls Chalayan. “But I said, ‘That’s not the point.’”
Maybe not, but money and exposure are major factors in any collaboration, not only with Moss and Topshop but also with Chalayan and J Brand. He cops to that but insists maintaining a level of creative integrity has been key. “It wouldn’t be exciting to me to do this and sell three pairs,” says Chalayan. “This collaboration shows that our language can be applied to things that you can really wear.”
Indeed, that’s been one of his critics’ biggest complaints. For his part, Chalayan bristles at the idea that real clothes haven’t been part of his repertoire. His more outre work has been the subject of museum exhibitions and editorial fascination, but he doesn’t see them as his main contribution to fashion. “Our compositions, the way we create lines around the body, looking at what to cut, what to hide, what to reveal — it’s those kinds of things that have had more of an influence,” says Chalayan. “A lot of press don’t note that, to be honest, but the buyers note it.” Perhaps this new “commercial” Chalayan has been back in the showroom all along.
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews