Ashish Gupta's designs have always been glam and glitter, sequin and sex. They're favored by celebrities from Katy Perry to Rihanna, often exploding with bright pastels. But at London Fashion Week this year, Ashish reached for something else: depth, history, storytelling, mythology. His SS17 "Bollywood Bloodbath" collection is another world entirely.
Click through above - his well-loved and typically over the top and "all-things-sequined" designs have been toned down (just slightly) here, lengthened and romanticized. It's flow and drama and mythology, politics and anger and joy - still punctuated by that Ashish flair. He's managed to express a devastatingly wide array of human emotions in one collection.
As we hear it, he tapped a blind sitar player to accompany the show, at one point sending a male model down the runway in a shimmering, barely-there gold dress, a live python around his neck.
There was a message here - one of celebration and honor, but also a political statement. As the designer told Refinery 29 backstage, "I wanted to celebrate Indian culture in this country. I was absolutely horrified by Brexit, it broke my heart. I just wanted to make a statement about it and celebrate this culture which is so beautiful and an integral part of life in this country."
Beyond Brexit, Ashish honored the full racial and gender spectrum with this collection (a huge depart from most of his fellow designers). The cast of models were delightfully different (from eachother and from other shows), gender boundaries were crossed and human sexuality was explored - a nod to Hindu gods and myths, and to our current sociopolitical climate. From white flower gardens to knotted hair, yellow and blue faces (a nod to Lord Shiva), payalia anklets and toes dyed with alta, this was a collection flush with reference, history and culture.
Ashish was asked about the whitewashing of fashion, responding, "I suppose it’s an artistic decision, I’m not one to comment on other people’s aesthetic or casting decisions. It’s a choice everyone is free to take but my view is that we live in such a diverse world that I don’t understand how the view of beauty can be so narrow. I think that fashion is meant to be aspirational, if you have all white girls on the runway what does that say about people’s aspirations? I think that’s quite shocking."
A breath of fresh air, and pure inspiration. He wore a sweatshirt backstage - it read, "Immigrant."