"The doctor will see you now" was perhaps Supriya Lele’s first thought for her AW19 collection. Inspired, as ever, by her family, Supriya took a delve into the matriarchs in her lineage, many of whom are doctors. Different from her, yes, but here the young and fantastically smart designer proved once again that she can use what her mother gave her (her brain, of course) to create a collection brimming with intersects — visual, intellectual and emotional.
It was the designer’s second ever presentation out there on her own, since she strode from under the umbrella of London’s NewGen scheme, which supports the UK’s brightest design stars. It’s a scary thing to face the fashion schedule alone but, as evidenced by this collection, it looks brilliant on Supriya.
Set in what felt like a doctor-cum-dominatrix’s office, brown PVC flaps and bright LED ring lights plunged the collection into a clinical setting. But the clothes were far from clinical: light blues, mauves and acid yellowish-greens (one of Lele’s signature colours) created the backbone of the collection, in the form of sheer mesh rollnecks and smartly draped dresses.
Outerwear — like a standout brown leather with a fire orange faux fur trim, or an evergreen ladies-who-lunch coat — was sharp, powerful and invoked feelings of concealing it all, only to drop the coat at the door and take charge of yet another worthless man.
Lele’s collections are always in conversation with sex and sexuality. But unlike so many of the sex references we’re used to from men who design for women, there’s a thoughtfulness and a quietness to the way sex and fetishism appear in Lele’s work. There were small leathery aprons, dresses which zipped all the way down, and skirts split up to the hip bone. Touches of PVC and shimmering knitwear were like liquid layers atop skin, and teeny-tiny bralets sat above layers and created a cinched silhouette just above the breast. It’s strange, it makes you want to look for longer.
A little NHS blue — like a dress in the colour of nurse’s scrubs — and white tights reminded us of the medicinal properties of the looks. The ways to wear can be found in layering: sheer on sheer, with PVC or nylon on top. Colours should be muted and bright together, powdery and strong. Imagine unusual silhouettes: nipped at the bust or broad sleeves just below the shoulder.
In the past, Lele has looked at the men in her life, cutting patterns from her dad’s shirts and old masculine trench coats, mixing it with her beautiful sari draping. This season took a turn toward more feminine cuts (although we all know clothing has no gender) but at no point was it twee, nor did it lose its strength. Each season, Lele proves that the key to good design is focus, thought, a many-layered approach. It’s a pretty tricky job to make mothers, doctors and dominatrixes seem like the perfect mix, yet Lele pulled it off perfectly. I’m sick… for Supriya!