supriya lele celebrates the NHS for autumn/winter 19
The designer's second solo presentation was a tribute to the people who keep us alive.
This season, some of London Fashion Week’s best shows have investigated the multifaceted nature of British identity. The looming, undefinable nightmare of Brexit, has plunged the Europe-facing fashion industry into a state of uncertainty. An uncertainty that has been mirrored on the catwalks. Designers are not pushing Britishness as a nightmare of Toby Jugs, Waterloo, Mad Cow Disease, Union Flag-clad street parties. But as something in flux, up for grabs, a celebration of British fashion’s openness, adaptability, radicalism.
British fashion, in recent years, has opened up to a second-generation perspective. These designers, in their different ways, from Wales Bonner to Asai to Mowalola, are creating some of the most exciting and innovative fashion at the moment, precisely because they tell stories with their designs that tell us about where we come from and the world we live in. Supriya is doing that just that.
This is her second season since graduating from Fashion East. Her first set out her stall, showcasing just what she does so well, and giving it space to breathe and relax a little. This season it felt like Supriya approached her work with a clear-eyed focus. She pushed it on. Found new exciting forms and silhouettes for her fashion to take.
Supriya grew up in the Midlands and studied in Edinburgh and the RCA. Her work is equal parts minimalist and opulent, she mixes the sari with sportswear, she has an incredible technique for draping and shaping across the body. A great eye for turning superficially clashing colours into the complementary. She has always explored that space where Britishness and Indianness overlap, clash, find some personal synthesis even.
Supriya often mines the specificities of her family heritage for inspiration, finding commonalities in the clothes she wears with those of her ancestors in India and more traditional fashion inspirations -- drawing often from family albums stuffed full of photos. Supriya comes from a family of doctors, and this formed the root of inspiration for her collection. There were surgically inspired grey-blue dresses, blue NHS ticks became a print used throughout the collection, wipe-clean printed rubber featured heavily in coats. There were metallic dresses and skirts resembling armour, wide-cut necks opened across the body, sheer layers contrasted with heavy set coats.
There’s no skirting around the political issue of the NHS. From the Brexiteers’ bus-lined lies, to the real facts and figures around the number of international nurses and caregivers who support us. A small-minded and closed off immigration policy, a lack of investment in services and a need for wage rises and more staff: these are issues that define the kind of country we will be living in. It’s great that a wonderful young designer like Supriya is taking a stand on them.