Since his 1993 debut ‘Tangent Flows’, Hüseyin Çağlayan has displayed his genius on the catwalk and lately in installations, films and stage performances. While his “Souffleur” exhibition continues at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, we find ourselves talking about him and his vision.

Hüseyin Çağlayan is one of the few storytellers of our time. He employs elements of art, performance, anthropology and technology in his fashion creations. He sails between different platforms with a series of collaborations and projects and can reveal a global perspective on the cultural bonds between space, body and history through clothes. We think he has every right to define himself as a storyteller rather than a designer or artist, because he deals with ideas, and explores movement and transformation.

Brit Art was gaining hype in the early 90s, opening the way for brave designers to step forward and establish themselves. Hüseyin Çağlayan stormed the fashion scene while still a student at Central Saint Martins. In his breakthrough graduation project ‘The Tangent Flows’, he buried fabrics underground to create oxidised objects of desire. Çağlayan captured a series of iconic moments throughout his career, especially with ‘Coffee Table Skirt’. The creative genius went on to surprise us with robotic clothes that can be stretched, moved or concealed with a button, fabrics responsive to light and sound, clothing that transforms their designs on 3D screens, LED and laser showcase designs, remote-controlled tulle layers, projectors that visualise the stress levels of models, ethnic details fused with urban materials… Using modern technology, Çağlayan boldly reflected his stance on political, cultural and humanitarian issues.

There came a point where the limits of the fashion scene started to suffocate Çağlayan despite his attempts to challenge it. He pulled the curtain on catwalk shows with a Fall 2020 ready-wear collection and now he tells his stories in different avenues of art. His short film ‘The Absent Presence’ featuring Tilda Swinton was screened at the 51st Venice Biennale. He designed the plexiglass egg performance for Lady Gaga at the 2011 Grammy Awards and directed a dance production at Sadler’s Wells theatre in 2015. He started lecturing at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences in 2019 as a professor specialising in sustainability. His retrospective ‘Archipelago’ consisting of 130 works shaped around the familiar themes of race, culture and migration was exhibited at the Shanghai Power Station Museum of Design in early 2022. With a focus on many issues such as identity, disembodiment, metamorphosis, and colonialism through new media, his most recent exhibition ‘Souffleur’ has finally arrived in Turkey.

A collaboration between Sakıp Sabancı Museum and Pilevneli, the exhibition “Hüseyin Çağlayan-Souffleur” will continue until 8 January 2023. ‘Souffleur’ comprises three series: “Pre-tension”, in which each piece gives a different voguing pose, “Fake Celebrations”, an installation that protests digital isolation with familiar materials such as foil, sequins, feathers, and “Post-colonial Body”, which combines South American dance figures with Japanese ritual re-enactments while exploring colonised societies. This special exhibition also features “Gravity Fatigue”, a section from the dance production he directed at Sadler’s Wells, which serves as a prompter by filling the gaps between these topics.

Hüseyin Çağlayan has not been releasing fashion collections since 2020, but that does not mean that he has gravitated away from it. Although clothing is somewhat restrictive when it comes to expressing ideas, he still thinks fashion is an important part of the culture. We can expect to see more of Çağlayan’s genius in his installations, films and stage performances, just as was the case in his years as a fashion designer.