LONDON--Designer Osman Yousefzada claims to accomplish with pattern cutting what plastic surgeons do with scalpels. On Friday afternoon in the chasmic Raphael Gallery of London's trove of ancient art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, he aimed to demonstrate just that. Applauded for his graceful draping and masterful cutting, the designer was tapped to showcase a taster of his past collections in the V&A's public Fashion in Motion series.
With elongating proportions and subtle gathers, it's easy to understand the broad allure his dresses have, especially to the finicky and often under-served over 40 set. Osman faithfuls include former first lady Sarah Brown, who has been pulling a Michelle Obama by donning the designs of young fashion talents. Other fans include Victoria Beckham, who paid the designer the biggest compliment of all by "replicating" an Osman column dress she'd once borrowed. Oh the cheek! But the poised and eloquent Osman reacted to the claims as flattery rather than with a lawsuit.
The show opened with muscular male and female dancers, in Osman creations, twirling and lunging across the mosaic floor to enchanting and subtly ethnic music. The designer, born of Afghani immigrants, is largely influenced by costume and ethnicity, citing inspirations such as the North African djellaba, samurai armor and the cheongsam. His skill lies in his ability to take the essence of each and transform them with such unfussy lines as to steer far clear of any hobo comparisons.
Like a chronological look book, the first pieces off the block were four little black dresses from his recent capsule jersey collection that were said to have been inspired by Andie MacDowell in the film Green Card. Rounding out the '90s trend were slinky maxis, one bearing the only print design in the show, and finally the Balmain nose thumbing: cut out shoulders.
Crisp white tunics and a-lines from this summer's collection with gold silkscreened squares made an appearance, as did jacquard tunics and boiled wool cocoon dresses from A/W 09. His newest foray into accessories looked promising, with beaten gold neck pieces and heavy squarish sunglasses.
Speaking with the designer after the show, I wondered if we might hope to see a bit of print or surface design in his future. "I still have a very kitsch and bling side that I really have to reign in," he laughed. And if he weren't designing clothes? "I'd be making beautiful buildings!"
While established designers are dropping like flies Osman has a lot to pleased about. For a designer barely five years into the game, he's got the backing of major retailers like Selfridges. He is in the business of creating classics and seems to have found the right equation for it. A fact not lost on Spanish high street chain Mango, who asked him to design a little black dress for their 35 shops. Whether a perfectly tailored white shirt, which stores couldn't stock enough of, or a jersey LBD, there's no doubt Osman is onto something.
You can pick up his pieces Stateside at fashion importers Elizabeth Charles in NY. All photos courtesy of V&A Images.