Hannah Leverson
Hannah Leverson
Our resident Harvard student and Paris correspondent enjoys rainy days, Sundays, and not being pestered during finals. Follow her on IG @dazzledandamused.

Hussein Chalayan: Decoding Bösewicht to Sonntagsröcke at Paris Spring ’16 Show

Hussein Chalayan FW16

hussein-chalayan-paris-fw16-mainThe name Hussein Chalayan may ring a bell if you heard about the dissolving dresses during Prêt-à-Porter Spring 2016. The designer put soluble lab coats over bejeweled dresses and then made it rain, literally, on the models.

Spring 2016’s Dissolution
(Skip to :30 or so)

A few interesting facts on the designer: Chalayan has overcome huge technical feats in technology, science, and engineering to produce his art, notably with a dress that became a coffee table in 2000. He designed Björk’s jacket on the album cover for Post (1995), he has made short films, and he has been a Member of the Order of the British Empire since 2006.

He designed a dress that became a coffee table, and Björk’s jacket on Post.


Chalayan, who has called himself a storyteller, uses German fairy tales as inspiration in the FW 2016 collection. He showcases characteristically long and ümlauted German words such as “bösewicht” (villain), “verbrannt” (burnt), “Sonntagsröcke” (Sunday skirt), and “heimatlich” (native, at home). The idea behind using words instead of images was to conjure an idea of an image instead of directly depicting one.

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(Images: Gio Staiano / NOWFASHION)

Chalayan further unravels the fairy tale motif into numerical sequences, made with crystal and sewn onto patterns of German forests. The motivation for using numbers is twofold: they’re supposed to express the traveling speed of fairy tale characters, and the brainy mathematical nature of numbers is meant to contrast with the brawny romantic nature of crystal.

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When I asked Chalayan if decomposition was an important theme to his work, considering the dissolving dress from last season and the linguistic and numerical presence in the current collection, he corrected me, saying his goal is to “decode.” He disassembles codes, and we can try to put them back together.

Chalayan told me his goal is to “decode.”

Many of the looks were right on trend, with not as much re-coding necessary on our part. There’s a feminist message behind many of the looks — androgynous coats and chunky shoes with an air of adventure, cut off ponytails reattached at the ears.

There’s a feminist message behind many of the looks.

These women are strong and fierce, and they’re not afraid of Rumpelstiltskin.

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With love,


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