Friday 16th October

| BY Paul Toner

Ashish: Ready-to-Wear SS21

“There’s so much beauty in kitsch,” exclaimed Ashish with a chuckle as he walked us through his spring/summer 2021 collection. It was a pretty grim Tuesday evening, chucking it down with rain, yet inside the designer’s Hackney studio, the mood was hopeful. The last time we spoke, Ashish’s factory in New Dehli – where he spends a large chunk of the year creating his collections – was still closed. Luckily, the designer has been able to pay each of his 70 employees throughout the pandemic, and no redundancies were made; his biggest lockdown achievement, he says.

Unable to head back to India to work with his team, Ashish had to adapt – directing his designers, seamstresses and sequin specialists 5,000 miles away, from his West London home. “I couldn’t see the work being done so it was kind of erratic,” recalls the designer, who had to work in phases due to the constant shifting of circumstances on both sides of the globe. He breaks down the collection into three sections, each a reflection of the designer’s different mindsets during lockdown.

Time spent in isolation had Ashish reminiscing about Touch ‘n’ Tuck tapestries, the home game where you stitch by numbers. The sudden flush of nostalgia came from the designer’s own unshiftable feeling that he needed to design more and more product. Looking to Indian collage artwork done in the Victorian times, Ashish began making his “weird, kitschy culture clashes,” featuring kitten shirts, psychedelic mushroom mini-dresses and a hoodie stamped with ‘Hail Satan’. “There are weird emo moments,” says the designer, yet the collection is far from doom and gloom.

It was only after the final look was created, when Ashish realised one standout gown – featuring a swan swimming against a scenic background – subconsciously resembles a Ravi Varma painting of the Goddess Lakshmi, which hangs in the designer’s hallway. Another slew of looks – all beautifully striped – are a representation of the days Ashish wanted to be controlled, paired alongside a glamourous set of seventies going-out dresses for those moments he missed the dancefloor. “It was so therapeutic,” reflected the designer on the whole process. Not only has kitsch never looked so cool, but rather beautiful, too.

Ashish SS21 campaign

Photography Ashish Shah
Kshitij Kankaria
Creative Direction
Hair & Make-up
Riviera Lynn
Naayaab Sheikh & Ruthvik Naik
Photographer’s assistant
Abhishek Rao
Stylist’s assistant
Riya Panwar
Maitreya Shah