You Can Now Buy Ashish’s ‘Immigrant’ T-Shirt

It was a powerful message of pride and defiance following the Brexit result, subsequent widespread animosity and rise in hate crimes. And now, a week after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, Ashish's shirt emblazoned with the word 'Immigrant' is even more pertinent. Originally printed solely for the designer to wear to take his bow at the end of his Indian-inspired SS17 fashion show during London Fashion Week in September, Ashish Gupta and his team were so inundated with requests for "Look 36" that the Delhi-born, London-based designer decided to add the T-shirt to his second T'aint collection, which drops at Browns this week. It was Yeda Yun, then a buyer for Browns Focus, who gave Ashish his first order in 2001 so it feels particularly special for the designer to be stocking his in-demand 'Immigrant' shirt at the recently re-branded store, 15 years later, as part of his second capsule T-shirt collection. We spoke with Ashish about the reaction to his emotive collection, why he's not afraid as a fashion designer to be politically vocal, and his hopes for the future.

Were you surprised by the incredibly positive response to the collection and your 'Immigrant' T-shirt?

I was overwhelmed, it was good to know that there are so many people that supported me and that message. Immigrants are so maligned, it makes me so angry every time 'immigration' is used as an excuse to rile up hatred and racism, especially after Brexit and, following that, with the U.S. election.

Were you nervous about making such a bold social/political statement with the T-shirt?
No, I was proud to wear it because that's what I am. I think the whole political system, and as a result our society, continues to be so disrespectful towards immigrants. Despite the fact that we contribute so much to the economy and culture, we pay taxes, create new jobs, set up businesses, bring different experiences and skills; immigrants are doctors, firefighters, social workers, artists. Still, we are consistently portrayed as a community that is not much more than a burden on the system, a problem that constantly needs to be 'controlled'. It's important to change people’s attitude towards the word. How much poorer any society would be without different food, music, art, literature – think about all the people who would not fall in love, the children who would not speak more than one language.

When I tweeted my post-show interview with you, many young women, specifically Indian girls shared the piece and were so proud and grateful of your celebration of Indian culture. That was my highlight of fashion week – to see these girls, not directly involved in fashion, so touched by your show. Did you get a similar response?
Yes, I was so touched to know that I had made people feel proud of their heritage. So many sent me their stories, one person said how her family's store was vandalised with the word 'immigrant' when she was growing up and they had to clean up all the graffiti, another said how much she was bullied while growing up in Sweden and how the show made her feel so proud of her heritage. It's so sad that people are bullied or treated like second-class citizens because they are from another country or culture. There is only one race, and it's the human race.
Photo: NIKLAS HALLE'N/Getty Images.
Can you tell us about the starting point for this T'aint collection?
I wanted T’aint to be connected to the main collection this season, so I used images from the temples of Khajuraho in India. The temples are famous for their erotic sculptures, and I was amazed how they celebrate such a rich, diverse sexuality considering they were built over 1000 years ago – especially ironic when you realise that homosexuality has been re-criminalised in India and moral policing is on the rise, it is so regressive. Are you worried that post-Brexit vote, London's diversity and subsequent creativity and creative variety will be stifled?
Yes, there are already cuts in arts funding, art history is being removed as an A-level subject. It will be so much harder to employ talented creative people from overseas, there will be less international students, in general we will have a much more inward-looking isolated country that is more interested in building nuclear submarines. Brexit and the US election have exposed the racism that has consistently been denied to have existed. I find hope in knowing that art usually becomes the voice of dissent in times like this. What does 2017 hold?
A revolution I hope.
Ashish's T'aint collection is available from Browns from November 18th. Prices start from £70

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