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Hussein Chalayan's Airmail Dress

White paper dress on mannequin
Airmail Dress, Hussein Chalayan, 1993

Hussein Chalayan BA Fashion Design, Airmail Dress, paper, 1993

A conversation between art and fashion, the Airmail Dress folds into an envelope ready to be sent overseas. Customisable in the most direct way, inviting the sender to write over it, the dress reflects the emotional pull of garments to viscerally connect us to far away people and memories.

Created the same year that Chalayan graduated from Central Saint Martins, the piece is indicative of fashion’s power to tell stories as well as the designer’s constant material and conceptual curiosity. Speaking about the dress to Tamsin Blanchard in 2001, Chalayan said: "I was interested in investigating the idea of creating a cyclical scenario, where people react to clothes and the end result. I like the idea of it being interactive… you don't know what people are going to write on it. It's just the raw material, to be themed by the recipient or the sender. The dress can go off on its own course. I like doing that. It's like picking up a seed from the air and you don't know what will happen to it. It's quite a creative way of working - creating a situation and then withdrawing."

“We have to be careful when we open it up, but our collection is for learning, so we would rather the dress was shown and handled with care rather than wrapped up and locked away. Often people don’t know what the Airmail Dress is until you fully unfold it so the process of revelation is magical.”

Sarah Campbell, Curator, Museum & Study Collection