Consecrated with the Queen Elizabeth II Award last February, the designer Priya Ahluwalia continues her beautiful rise. The 29-year-old Londoner of Nigerian and Indian descent is one of the new wave of menswear designers with a green and ethical foundation, and she shines under her eponymous label.
Priya Ahluwalia was born in South London in the 90s and carries a rich multicultural heritage, peppered with family trips to vintage markets in Lagos, Nigeria and Panipat, a small Indian town north of Delhi. Is her name starting to sound very seriously familiar? Of course it is. You’ve ogled one of the sublime pieces from her latest collaboration with the scandi-cool brand Ganni. You may also remember her brilliant first steps on the catwalk with adidas MakerLab during London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2019. It must be said that Ahluwalia has been racking up nominations and awards since graduating from the University of Westminster in June 2018.
Between her H&M Design Award, her nomination for the LVMH 2020 prize, her fashion film Joy acclaimed at the Gucci Fest 2020 and her consecration in 2021 with the Queen Elizabeth II Award, Priya Ahluwalia’s CV is strong. The secret to her success? Six collections with a sportswear feel to her credit, made entirely from dead stocks, vintage pieces and organic fabric scraps. Everything is upcycled using extraordinary craftsmanship. Moreover, his vision of fashion is built as a response to social injustice.
One example is her spring/summer 2021 collection called “Liberation”, which echoes the Black Lives Matter movement. She teamed up with Lagos-born British designer Dennis McInnes to create prints from an archive of posters from the 1960s protests in Nigeria. For her autumn/winter 2021 collection, she draws her inspiration from the Harlem Renaissance, an inter-war movement (1920-1930) that was extremely strong in African-American culture.
On the other hand, the Londoner whose looks oscillate between 70s patchwork and 90s rave inspirations has published two life-saving books. The most recent, entitled Jalebi, is a tome photographed by Laurence Ellis, whose images explore the designer’s work and Indian roots. The images take us to the London Borough of Southall, home to Britain’s first Punjabi community.
Her very first book, Sweet Lassi, deals with the problems of surplus Western clothing. During a trip to Lagos in 2017, she spotted a number of second-hand items from the UK, such as a 2012 London Marathon T-shirt. She also discovered, during a trip to India, that tons of clothes are sent there to be “recycled” but actually end up with small traders who accumulate insane volumes. The Ahluwalia philosophy was thus born from this appalling observation: tomorrow’s fashion should be built without unnecessary damage.