Hussein Chalayan was born in Nicosia in 1970 and graduated from the Türk Maarif Koleji of his hometown. At that time the population of the island was divided because of the constant struggles between the Greek and Turkish authorities. Ethnic conflicts between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities eventually led to war and acts of ethnic cleansing from the Greek side. For this reason, Chalayan and his family were forced to move to England in 1978.[4] Here he first studied for a National Diploma in fashion and clothing at Warwickshire School of Arts and proceeded to study Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. His graduate collection in 1993, titled “The Tangent Flows”, contained clothes that he had buried in a backyard and exhumed just before the show where they were presented with an accompanying text that explained the process. The ritual of burial and resurrection was said to give the garments a dimension that referenced life, death, and urban decay. The work attracted the attention of the Browns fashion boutique in London who borrowed the collection to feature in their window display. Chalayan established his own company in 1994, Cartesian Ltd., as well as his ready-to-wear line.

The change

Hussein Chalayan (which he changed in 2010 to just “Chalayan” because of the oriental connotation of his first name, Hussein). In his fashion designs, he integrates the human body and clothing with technology, science, and architecture, playing with the narratives constructed around culture and anthropology. To construct these stories he combines his artistic fashion work with installations music and cinema. This is why his catwalk shows are often referred to as performances rather than fashion. According to Chalayan however, part of this perception is related to the fact that the garments that are eventually talked about are the ones that are the most innovative, in some cases even described as ‘wearable art’ and not the rest of the collections that show highly wearable garments.

In 1995, Chalayan beat 100 competitors to clinch a top London fashion design award. In the contest, organized by the company “Absolute”, Chalayan, aged 25, won financial backing to the tune of £28,000 to develop creations for the British capital’s Fashion Week in October 1995. 

For his Echoform collection for Autumn/Winter 1999 Chalayan created leather dresses inspired by car interiors to represent externalizing speed. He also mimicked airplane interiors by attaching padded headrests to dresses This project was based on exploring the relationship of the body’s inherent mobility and aimed to evoke thoughts on speed, spatiality, and well-being.