Fashion In Motion: Osman Interview

Our Osman interview was recorded live for V&A Channel's first live broadcast on 21st May and features the up-and-coming Anglo-Afghani fashion designer talking about his inspirations and influences as a designer

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Video Transcript

Interviewer

So Osman Yousefsada, hello. Thanks for joining us here at the V&A on a special day for us as this is our first live broadcast, and your first catwalk show at the V&A. So, can you perhaps tell us...I know that you’re especially fond of the V&A. I read somewhere that you live nearby and also that you come here regularly, you say its a quintessentially London...

Osman
Every week. There’s always things that I notice all the time, so its a complete treasure trove, you always notice what is exhausted and I know a lot of the pieces already off by heart. I know the Hall of Fame to the fashion room to some of the sculptures you walk down. So its a complete treasure trove basically, that has all sort of been unveilled in the fifteen or so years I’ve been in London.

Interviewer
Fantastic, ok. Perhaps you could tell us a bit about... This is rather a long journey for you because I read that you started off as a - your mother was a dressmaker - and that you learnt to cut when you were young.

Osman
It was a family business basically, so we all had to muck in, not quite child labour but not far off it, but all our spare time was actually occupied by that so there wasn’t very much time out to see the sun and play to some extent. There was, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but I enjoyed it more than anything else. It was everything that I wanted to do. I used to go out and buy all the chiffons, match all the brocades, do all the errands, do some of the deliveries, and stuff like that.

Interviewer
Was that - because you’re from an Afghan background, is that right?

Osman
My parents are from Afghanistan: my father is from Pakistan, my mother is from Afghanistan.

Interviewer
You grew up in Birmingham?

Osman
I was born in Birmingham, I grew up there.

Interviewer
 So those were the kind of clothes you were making then?

Osman
They were actually. My mother was actually doing very ornate work, so she’d actually service the Asian community, and on top of that she was doing embroidered panels for a wedding shop in Birmingham, so it was quite detailled, quite focused work, very craft-oriented.

Interviewer
So that’s what you wanted to do, I’m guessing, or that was where your interests lay, but that’s not your first career choice, so where did you go first?

Osman
I came into London to study at St. Martins, so it’s a craft I’ve always had with me, then I ended up doing something a little bit more academic.

Interviewer
You went and studied at Cambridge - is that right? What did you study?

Osman
Anthropology.

Interviewer
So were you planning to be a fashion designer at that point?

Osman
I was always doing artistic stuff: I was runnning a club at Cambridge, I was always doing the odd art class and bits and pieces, so it was like a continual journey. Then I went back, because I dropped out of St Martins in ’92, and then I went back and basically finished in 2005, and then basically the same year I launched Osman.

Interviewer
So you launched your own label straight away, and you made a real impact with that. Had you found your voice as a fashion designer by that point?

Osman
Well I think I was a little bit older than the average...what probably quite interests me to some extent is the inner-city boy watching old black and white Hollywood films, which are a little bit of escapism, so I always sort of loved the element of drama. There’s still a very kitsch part of me, because everything that my mother did do, whether it’s craft or bling, there’s a part that I always have to reign back in to stop me from going kind of crazy and just sort of stick to form and structure, and sort of stripping away everything and making it kind of pure.

Interviewer
I know that you’ve talked about your sources being hugely diverse. Actually a lot of the stuff that you find here, everything from a sari to Samurai armour.

Osman
I think I basically focus on a piece of detailling and then I focus on that piece of detailling and then eventually, so whether its a Masai necklace or stitchwork in a Samouri armour or bits of panelling in Samouri armour, or the way a drape is actually captured, and I give it a sort of tailoring really. So I manipulate that drape or that stitch or that cut, and I make it very tailored so it has an effortless feel to it.

Interviewer
I’ve heard that you spend a lot of time standing in front of the bathroom mirror, standing in a bath towel trying to get the effects of drapes. Is that true or not?

Osman
I do, probably once or twice a week.

Interviewer
How does that help? Is it looking at the way the fabric falls or not?

Osman
I really ought to wear a dress, I don’t know! The way a fabric falls, the way you can actually manipulate something. Its never exactly the same because I work in lighter materials and stuff like that - the fold is actually much more exaggerated in a fluffy bath towel, so then when you put it in a jazzy or in a lighter silk or something like that, it actually takes a different form altogether. But it gives you a nice basis to actually work with.

Interviewer

I know that you got a lot of recognition for the Little Black Dress range that you did a few years ago, but what have been the key moments for you in the past five years, because its only five years since you...?

Osman
It’s coming up to five. Key moments... I’m always quite a glass half empty kind of person to some extent so it’s always never enough. I’m a perfectionist so it could always be better. But I’ve had amazing support in the industry, from a lot of the editors. It’s been fantastic actually. And the buyers and the stores...

Interviewer
This must be an exciting moment for you to be invited here in the V&A to do a Fashion in Motion, obviously there have been some amazing designers who’ve...

Osman
...had that honour. No, its an absolute honour basically, its offering to actually be here in the Raphael Gallery, and also bringing your work to a wider audience, and also basically putting your body of work over the last four years and picking out your best pieces, and trying to make it have a signature and a statement running throughout all that work, has been really quite an interesting exercise aswell.

Interviewer
So what we’ve got here today is a retrospective of the past four and a half years. Is there anything we should be looking out forin the collection as they come down the catwalk? What are your favourite pieces?

Osman
 The wire cage around the bust, the babydoll dress, the coccoon dress, the jewel cut, the jersey drape dresses, the kind of signature pieces. There’s a little white section, there’s a black section, then it goes into colour, then it ends a little bit randomly but I need to re-edit that!

Interviewer
You’ve said, interestingly I think, that your work is characteristically British. I’m interested by that idea...

Osman
Not necessarily British in that sort of sense. I think it has a sort of colonial feel to it to some extent. It has the idea of fusion when you normally get ethinicity. Ethinicity is normally done in either a boho way or in a very much like a sheep traveller who wears a sort of ethnic scarf with a denim jacket, or it becomes quite literal like a maharaja walking down or an African queen walking down the catwalk. So it’s never done. You’ve had fusion in food, you’ve never really had... I just basically take ideas of ethinicity and give it quite a western silhouette to some extent, so in a way that’s what makes it quite fresh.

Interviewer
So you’re not satisfied with the V&A? I hope not. This is an amazing place to reach, but as you were saying the glass is always half empty, although actually the Raphael Gallery very much full. What’s your next ambition?

Osman
My next ambition...

Interviewer
Have you got anything in the V&A collection yet?

Osman
Not yet but I don’t think you should tempt fate.

Interviewer
Do you have a favourite item in the V&A which you constantly go back to?

Osman
There’s a Ray dress basically in there which is [Ray Carbacuro] and then there’s an amazing Balenciaga piece, quite sculptural, quite similar to what you’ve probably touched on today.

Interviewer
Terrific, thank you so much. We’ve really enjoyed it.

Osman
Thank you, hope its ok. Thank you.

 

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Osman Yousefzada - Osman for short - burst onto the British design scene with his very first London Fashion Week collection in 2005. Since then, the Birmingham-born 36 year old has cemented his reputation as one of Britain's most promising young fashion designers.

 

This film is an uncut  version of an interview conducted with the designer shortly after his Fashion in Motion catwalk retropsective  at the V&A on Friday 21st May. In it Osman talks about his inspirations, his work and his love for the V&A