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The magical music of Tori Amos

The designer Hussein Chalayan credits Tori Amos with helping him understand what it’s like to be a woman

September/October 2015

Hussein Chalayan, 45, was born in Cyprus, but moved to Britain in 1978; he has twice received the award for the British Designer of the Year. Tori Amos, 52, is an American singer-songwriter, now living in Britain, who has received eight Grammy nominations

After my parents divorced, I was brought up by women. My mother, my mother’s mother, my mother’s sister and my mother’s sister’s daughter – I was always around them. One of the reasons I’m a designer is because I always appreciated women more than men. I like to create a confident, empowering image of a woman and I think that what I listen to, what I see, strengthens that journey for me.

So it’s not Tori’s biography or life that interests me – though I know she had a quite religious upbringing in America, and now lives in Cornwall. It’s not that she’s worn my stuff a lot either, though that’s nice. It’s her work. She’s a musician’s musician: the way she combines words and sounds is like poetry, in that listening to it is a physical, emotional and oddly spiritual experience.

I discovered her in the late 1980s. Other people were listening to Madonna, but I was listening to the post-punks, followed by Kate Bush and Siouxsie and the Banshees. I felt  that Tori was very much from the same school of thought as Kate Bush, but with her own very distinct landscape.

There’s something magical about her. For me, her work is about perception. She has written about sexual abuse, marriage, love, loss, even tragedy, in a very female, emotionally intelligent way; she explores those ideas but at the same time shares them, so that you become part of the exploration. Her latest album, “Unrepentant Geraldines”, is a masterpiece – all of her experience is accumulated in it, delivered in a way I find very moving. I’ve always believed the role of creative people is to help us think in a different way, and in some respects I like to think I understand women better because of listening to Tori’s music. 

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