This is the first solo exhibition by Birmingham-born fashion designer Osman Yousefzada. A leading light of London Fashion Week, Osman works at the intersection of art and fashion, combining his multi-disciplinary design practice with a strong sense of social commentary.
His style fuses haute couture techniques and fabrics with strong sculptural designs and a clear perception of modernity, making him a go to designer for women from the worlds of art, film, entertainment and commerce.
Osman’s work has developed from a place where he considered himself to be “a product of multicultural England” and is shaped by a clear awareness of political contexts. Born into a conservative Muslim family in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, Osman’s Afghan mother ran a dressmaking business, making clothes for the Asian community. Having helped from a young age, by the time he entered secondary school Osman was cutting patterns for a variety of fabrics, including chiffon and brocade, and sourcing trims and haberdasheries at the local Asian shops: “as immigrant children we all had to muck in. People talk about the American Dream, but the British Dream isn’t dissimilar, you buckle up and you work as many hours as you can in a day”.
After a period studying anthropology at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), London, where he quickly became distracted by the club scene and making his own outfits, he enrolled briefly at Central Saint Martins, and then finally returned to finish his degree at SOAS before going on to do a Masters at Cambridge. His eponymously named label OSMAN made its on-schedule debut in 2008 at London Fashion Week.
Osman’s exhibition at Ikon consists entirely of new commissions, with a personal consideration of the contemporary fashion world and the industry’s inherent inequalities, juxtaposed with representations associated with the experience of immigration. Installations include a tent-like structure covered in delicate hand-embroidered cloth, patterned with a repeated signature based on Osman’s mother’s mark, which is presented adjacent to an evocation of an “immigrant’s bedroom” – inspired by his Afghan/Pakistani family’s experiences – full of furniture and decoration signifying cultural displacement.
Other installations feature imported garments made by low-wage workers for ‘fast fashion’ in the West and fetishised objects in a walk-in wardrobe redolent of male domination. Osman also presents a number of films, including a work made in collaboration with British artist Haroon Mirza, who returns to Ikon in the Winter for an exhibition of his own (November 2018 – February 2019).
To coincide with his exhibition, Osman is curating a four day festival, fusing themes of migration, fashion, art and music. Events include a screening of The True Cost (2015) with an introduction by Executive Producer Livia Firth; a fashion illustration workshop with illustrator Gregory Mark Lewis; Osman Yousefzada in conversation with Claudia Croft, Contributing Editor, British Vogue and much more. The Migrant Festival runs Thursday 14 – Sunday 17 June 2018, see website for details nearer the time.
The exhibition is organised in partnership with Selfridges and supported by Dazed, Eco-Age and Leila Elling.
Being Somewhere Else runs at Ikon Gallery from 6th – 29th June 2018.