Osman Yousefzada is such a sweetie. I popped over to his central London shop-fronted studio last week to catch up with him in his startling progress from young dressmaker to London catwalk designer with an enviable roster of the kind of strong, elegant professional women all designers dream of dressing when they start out. These include Lady Gaga, Caroline Issa of Tank magazine, Tallulah Harlech, the architect Pernilla Ohrstedt and the influential art collector Valeria Napoleone.
Osman's AW 2012 collection, using beautiful hand-loomed Spanish brocade shown at London Fashion Week (photo: catwalking.com)
Osman is from Birmingham and was secretly making dresses for his sister's Barbie at the age of five using offcuts of fabrics from his mother's bridal dressmaking workshop. His sister would pretend she had done the Barbie clothes, and he would pretend he had been playing football. "We are workers in my family. When I was ten I could plaster a wall, and cut a dress. Creativity is a middle class luxury after all, to me creativity is getting stuck in, getting work done."
Despite his openess Osman still squirms uncomfortably when talking about his personal life, which is hugely endearing. In fact, there is still something of that five year old lurking around the aura of Osman. Fashion is like his secret passion, and sometimes he finds it hard to articulate in words exactly what he is trying to say with his clothes. However, give him the opportunity to dress you up, drape some fabric, share some embroideries being completed in his basement atelier and before you know it a coat has been flourished in your direction, a trousers has been proffered (his tailored coats and trousers are his strongest seasonal offerings in my opinion) and you become his muse.
Osman's AW 2012 collection, shown at London Fashion Week (photo: catwalking.com)
Cobalt dress from Osman's Spring collection at Matchesfashion.com
When I press him to explain his passion for dressing women up in his now signature linear, modern cuts and opulent brocades, he eventually expresses the following: "I grew up watching women coming and going from my mothers workroom...I think that is why I love dressing women, and no two are the same," he says. "I know the transformative power of well cut clothes, and I guess what I do is work with my experience of women to create the right clothes for them. My method is, well...basically I will bend over backwards to help someone find the right thing. If a client comes to me " - 15% of his business is bespoke, and he has 80 global retail clients - "and needs something in two days, I will do it. I'm a worker. My motto is "I learn by client" which is something I have also heard Azzedine Alaia say, he needs to work on his women in order to keep learning. He is an inspiration to me."
Osman (photo courtesy of the designer)
So who does Osman see as his typical customer? He laughs. "I call them 'second wife clothes': not young first wife, not mistress. She is independent, intelligent, comfortable in her skin," he says. At this stage we are upstairs in his glossy showroom, but I want to see the studio downstairs the hub of activity in any designers' domain. "Oh, you don't want to go down there," his assistant warns. "You haven't seen his desk!"
Osman beckons me downstairs and the crammed space is a cacophany of visual stimuli; indeed his desk is not just a mess, it is an avalanche waiting to happen - possibly even an archeological dig of paper, ribbon and tear sheets. Osman's work is largely inspired by the colours, fabrics and dress of ethnic cultures dovetailed with the purity of line of, say Cristobal Balenciaga whose mother was also a dressmaker. Below are images of his studio.
If you love Osman's work and want to get something from one his past collections, the designer is taking part on the British Designer Collective at Bicester Village, which launches tomorrow. I will be there from 10am with a certain Alexa Chung looking for a dress for my BIG birthday which is a week today, but being celebrated with friends this weekend. Aaaaargh! I'll be trying on an Osman that is for sure.
Images from Osman's studio walls
BRITISH DESIGNER COLLECTIVE - DETAILS