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Ashish AW16: Afros, Rainbows And Diversity

Courtesy of Ashish
Welcome to the mad, beautiful world of London's spangliest designer, Ashish Gupta. A favourite of Lily Allen and MIA, his heavily sequinned designs (think Kim and Kanye's faces embellished on denim jackets) and embrace-everything attitude has made him London's most lionised, loved and Instagrammed designer. Since his first show at London Fashion Week in 2004, Gupta has won the New Generation Award three times, designed a collection for Topshop, and last season sent skateboarding star Charlie Barker and a high-heeled Jay Boogie down the runway in not much more than a dash of glitter.
So as the lights dimmed in Brewer Street carpark last night we all knew we were in for a party. Lights, action...funk. As a disco track swelled, Poppy Okotcha appeared in a candy-floss pink sequinned sweatshirt and slim fit trousers with a matching XXL afro wig in place. Look two: a flesh tone sequinned slip dress and coordinating super-fro...and so the show continued. A rainbow of head-to-toe block coloured sequinned looks with matching wigs. As models whooped, hollered, danced and w-o-r-k-e-d it down the runway, it was hard not to be caught up in Ashish's celebration.

Among the collection, that from afar would be hard to imagine anywhere besides Glastonbury's Pyramid stage, were covetable and wearable pieces; a glittery-camel mac, a Parma Violet sequinned crop top and maxi skirt, a disco-fabulous cowl neck mini dress in brick orange and a ballet slipper pink tracksuit are not for the faint hearted, but they'll undoubtedly be snatched up by Brewer Street's boutique Machine A, and appear on the back of every street style star come winter time. The afros were the idea of Anna Trevelyan, Ashish's right-hand woman, and took us back to the Afro Ken pencil cases from our school days. One mustard jacket read 'Golden Shower' on the reverse, and peddle pushers featured cartoonish bows on the calfs. All very iPhone friendly indeed.
Sure, this show wasn't about the commercial prospects of the collection - beyond die-hard fans, an emerald green sequin jumpsuit might seem unsuitable for everyday wear, but then that's not really the point of Ashish. For Ashish, the atmosphere and the casting of his shows is just as much a part of his vision. From Leomie Anderson to Poppy Okotcha and Lily Fofana to Kiara Ridgell and Summer Thompson, Ashish has always truly championed diverse casting in a way that no other designers manage. We caught up with a glitter-covered Ashish backstage who explained: "It was a celebration of colour and not just physical colour but of people. I always have mixed casting. I believe in mixed casting. We live in a mixed world, why do people ignore that? I love all different types of people. Everyone is beautiful. I find it hard not to appreciate the beauty in everybody."
Asked about the heavy 70s overtones, he explained his inspiration was much simpler. "It was actually just inspired by a rainbow and a box of crayons I owned as a child," he said. "So I thought, last season was so kind of random, I was inspired by the randomness of things. This season I wanted to be super structured, super organised and controlled." So why the afros? "Anna and I were obsessed; I wanted one colour head-to-toe on every look, and then Anna was like, 'we have to have afros'. They're so fabulous."

Having recently celebrated his 10th anniversary, I ask about his plans for the future: "I never plan for the future. Nothing ever goes the way you plan it." So what about his plans for tonight? "I'm going to go to sleep. I've had two hours sleep in the last 72 hours. I went to bed at 6am this morning and I got up at 8am. If I had one glass of Prosecco right now I'd pass out. I'd be on the floor and you'd have to drag me out of the club." Vivre L'Ashish!