London Calling: Priya Ahluwalia is One of Our 10 Menswear Designers to Meet
On March 23, Boris Johnson put the UK into a lockdown unlike anything we had ever experienced, in order to protect the country from a health pandemic the majority of us had never witnessed before. A mere two months earlier we’d barged through bustling crowds at London Fashion Week Men’s (LFWM), our knees brushing up against each other as we sat tightly packed into narrow rows within busy venues dotted across the capital. Totally unaware of the storm brewing in the distance. This was to be the last LFWM as we knew it. As the global fashion schedule came to a standstill in the face of Covid-19, the British Fashion Council took the opportunity to rethink the seasonal calendar entirely. Moving forward, London Fashion Week would become one gender-neutral platform, and its first iteration would be solely digital, held this past June.
Many London designers – not long out of university and entirely independent – didn’t have access to a studio, never mind physical resources, during lockdown. Instead, each faced the task of steering the codes that have shaped their brand thus far into uncharted waters, a URL unknown. Some crafted virtual-reality exhibitions and made capsule collections from deadstock, others decided not to show at all. So we spoke to the talent behind 10 of the city’s most promising brands to find out how they approached a season no one could have imagined.
There’s no denying it: Priya Ahluwalia has a sweet tooth. Her favourite treat is jalebi, a popular Indian sweet made from deep-fried maida batter that is soaked in sugar syrup. Jalebi also happens to be the title of the designer’s multifaceted project that debuted during London Fashion Week Digital – a 100-page photobook and VR exhibition that celebrated Southall’s Punjabi community.
When she was growing up, the Indian-Nigerian designer would take regular trips to Southall, which is home to the largest Punjabi community outside India. The docu-style images were photographed by Laurence Ellis, just one of the creatives who has followed Ahluwalia on her tremendous journey since graduating from the University of Westminster in 2018. Her upcycled designs for her brand Ahluwalia embody her experience as a young, mixed-heritage person growing up in London and have bagged the designer both an H&M Design Award win and a spot in this year’s LVMH Prize finals – where the prize money was split between all eight finalists. All that in two years? We can’t even imagine what the next 10 hold for this design maven.
How have you found creating during lockdown?
“At the beginning I found it really hard because I was so anxious about everything, both globally and locally. But as I started to get into the rhythm of being in lockdown, I found I was using the much more peaceful time for lots of research and experimentation. When the brand is running at full capacity, I often have to do 10 jobs in a day. It was great to be able to solely focus on creative output.”
What did a day in lockdown look like for you?
“I generally started the day by exercising on Houseparty with a group of my friends, then I would walk my dog. I then would spend the rest of the day on work or research and then the evenings on baking and cooking.”
How do you hope the fashion industry changes in a post-Covid world?
“I hope that the big brands pay their bills, especially in countries such as Bangladesh and Kenya, where people are destitute without their wages. I hope they appreciate that, in a global world, they have to respect people at all stages of the supply chain.”
Where should people wear your clothes once life returns to a state of normality?
“Everywhere and anywhere.”
Top image by Anna Stokland. Taken from Issue 52 of 10 Men – COMMUNITY, BELONGING, UPLIFTING – available to purchase here.