Designers Dish

Designers Dish: Hussein Chalayan

From his costumes for the L.A. Philharmonic's latest opera to Lindsay Lohan, this is what the famed Brit-based conceptual designer had to say last time he was in town.
Designers Dish: Hussein Chalayan
Designers Dish: Hussein Chalayan
AP Photo/Thibault Camus

Hussein Chalayan's avant garde, architectural designs have graced the bodies of Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez. And now, it seems, the Cyprus-bred, London-based designer is having a bit of a West Coast moment, having swathed six performers in last month's L.A. Phil performance of Motzart's  opera Cosi fanne tutti in his artful, grace-infused pieces. 

We caught up with the inquisitive, 43 year-old two-time British Designer of the Year at Mameg, Sonia Eram's famed rule-breaking Beverly Hills boutique where his spring 14 collection is currently on offer (along with a selection of Arem's one-of-a-kind Chalayan vintage), to talk all things opera, style and -- only because he asked first -- why Lindsay Lohan is still a phenomenon.  

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Pret-a-Reporter : Welome to L.A. There are good things going on here in the design world right now, no?

Hussein Chalayan: Oh yes. There is a newfound energy. And it's just a nicer quality of life. I'm based in London, and the weather sucks. 

We're from Chicago. We get it. You just designed the costumes for the L.A. Philharmonic production of Cosi fanne tutti. L.A. isn't typically thought of as an opera town but lately there are good things happening in that department here, too. 

It's been a good project. I was approached about a year ago by the L.A. Philharmonic, and Zaha Hadid was doing the sets. 

She's an amazing architect. You've worked with her before, right? 

I knew her from London before. I did a thing for her at the Millennium Dome and we've been in talks for other projects. So there has been a connection. 

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Both you and she have such a modern approach and aesthetic when it comes to design. How do you modernize an opera that was written in 1789?

With a suit suit. And modern proportion. And attitude. It’s also about obviously how women's roles have changed. For me, I’m particularly interested in a woman who can be a bit masculine during the day but sexy and feminine at night. That's very modern.

Speaking of making things modern, the Philharmonic's tuxedos feel very stodgy. Especially for a casual town like L.A. Just saying. How would you rework them if you had the chance? 

I would remain quite neutral. They could be more relaxed. It has to be like sorbet, a cleanser. It has to be pure. Its really about the instrument. What they're wearing is the instrument. You have to know where to add and where to take off. In a situation like that I think their instrument is their attire.

What do you think about Lindsay Lohan? Is she genuine?

You're such an intellectual designer and not typically thought of as a standard "celebrity" clothier. Why do you ask?

She's all over England at the moment. She has a reality program. I think [the celebrity's] role is to inspire people, isn't it? And to create a way for people to say, I could do that. 

The new thing to aspire to seems to be celebrities as entrepreneurs and business owners. 

If everybody wants to be their own company, who will be the consumer?