ahluwalia studio provides an upcycled response to brexit
As she crafts a nostalgic collage exploring her dual Indian-Nigerian heritage and London roots, Priya Ahluwalia provides a celebration of multicultural Britain.
“It’s a real family affair,” Priya Ahluwalia tells i-D as she talks us through her debut solo show, before being interrupted by an excited auntie who wants to give her a huge. As a tribute to her mother’s impending nuptials, the H&M Design Award 2019 winner breathed new life into vintage and dead-stock clothing as she took us on a nostalgic tour through her dual heritage childhood. “It’s about the clothes, the colours, the shapes, and the sounds of my youth,” she adds. After rifling through the wardrobes of her nearest and dearest, the Westminster MA Class of 2018 graduate delved deeper into her family archives and found herself finding an affinity for a collection of images of her loved ones, sharing glimpses into their lives and that of her own childhood too.
Mirroring her memories of growing up in London during the height of the UK Garage scene, Priya imagined a dream-like, psychedelic space featuring rave flyers and fly-posters, to create the ultimate family gathering. “This is a celebration of multicultural Britain and what happens when cultures meet,” she explained. Against the red, white and blue flag waving sociopolitical shitshow that is Brexit, this was a reminder of the positivity of immigration. Forget the rightwing rhetoric, this is what makes Britain great.
“I want people to see the nostalgia but also see how fresh it is for today,” she explains. “For me, it’s always about challenging ourselves to think of new ways to update things and to create more positively.” After kickstating long overdue industry conversations around overconsumption with her acclaimed graduate collection and limited-edition, sustainably-produced book, Sweet Lassi, Priya has continually pushed herself to source materials responsibly to create new patchworked pieces powered by textile trickery, repurposing everything from charity shop donations to deadstock.
“This season I found a supplier of deadstock Levi’s, which came in these huge US sizes,” she explains as he holds her arms apart gesturing a plus-size waist radius. “I was able to do so much with them.” One particularly powerful pair saw various jeans spliced and stitched together and printed with a portrait of Priya’s grandfather. These jeans encapsulate just what makes Ahluwalia Studio special. In Priya’s world, old and old continually collides to create something entirely new.
Throughout, the tradition of passing clothes and possessions through families continued the narrative and enriched brand’s philosophy of changing fashion industry practices through inventive approaches. Knitwear from her relatives was reimagined and the freshly introduced tailoring pieces were crafted from bespoke suits made in India, given to her by her Nana and worn by her late granddad, now recut and modernised. Completing the theme of family, gold jewellery pieces, created in collaboration with jeweller Elena Croce, made from repurposed metals.
As the current sociopolitical climate deepens divides, this cut, pasted and manipulated Ahluwalia Studio spring/summer 20 collection reminded us that coming together is now more vital than ever. We are family.