Burka by Hussein Chalayan

Hussein Chalayan is a London based Turkish Cypriot fashion designer acknowledged for being the epitome of experimental, and is one of my favourites to talk about. He’s famous for transforming high fashion before your very eyes within seconds. He creates an environment of theatrics and craftsmanship, a complete experience for his audience which leaves them mind-blown and wanting more.

In 1998, for the Panoramic collection, Chalayan explored ideas of nature and beautifully represented generic shapes and proportions through his models covered in cones and bandaged in black. In his Echoform collection 1998, he created leather dresses inspired by car interiors. In his 2000 collection he featured an ‘airplane dress’ with movable flaps, chair-covers that disguised their role as fashionable clothing, as well as the infamous ‘Coffee table dress’, which was a table designed to be worn as a skirt.
His creations are unrealistic dreams brought to life, transportable environments through garments, transforming perspectives, proportions and architecture through fashion at its finest. He is a dreamer, a magician, an innovator and master to us impressionable millennials.

Out of these collections, the one that struck me the most and left my mind tingling, was the Spring 1988, “Burka”, still spoken about today, roughly, 18 years later. The most thought-provoking, intriguing collection, minimal in look but maximal in thought. It was a controversy widely debated, called perverted and provocative by some, and art by others. 
“Burka” featured a series of women wearing Black Chadors of varying lengths. The first, extending all the way to the ground, followed by the chador gradually getting shorter and shorter with each model, leaving the last completely naked except for a face mask. Vogue quoted, “….his collection took an unflinching look at the status of Muslim women, and how something as simple as a hemline could connote so much meaning”.  My interpretation of the collection was not focused on the religious aspect, but on an existential problem faced due to traditionalism, patriarchy and sexism. In my opinion, Chalayan confronts and challenges ideas such as modesty. On how the clothing of women creates judgement and a certain perception by the onlooker. On how it creates an impression of the level of character and decency possessed by an individual. Chalayan breaks idealistic views of women and cultural barriers revealing last, the naked body of the women, which doesn’t show any degradation of modesty, character or decency, but just the decrease in the length of the Black Chador. 
Chalayan created something so simple, yet so powerful that holds so much relevance till date. Exposing the idealistic requirements of women, to protect themselves through clothing because of the gender they’re born with. A Thought-provoking, liberal and a beautiful way to expose the society we live in today.


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