Last season, Ashish exclaimed that he felt like he'd staged his own funeral with a more somber and dark collection that reflected our turbulent sociopolitical times. Sunday's fall/winte 2018 show, however, was a joyful return to rainbow colors and glittering glamour the designer is so known and loved for.
The show space was transformed by set designer Tony Hornecker into a bustling Indian market with carpeted floors, garish storefronts of retro shops selling "non-stop glamour," and hanging mannequins in sequined garments and bold patterns. "This was going back to my roots a little bit, celebrating immigrant culture," designer Ashish Gupta said backstage. "I wanted to create this magical, midnight market. It was about mixing high and low art and different elements together. Just celebrating the randomness of life."
The first model emerged through the shopfront beneath a "Posh Lookz" sign wearing a glittering gold blouse with vertical-striped sequined trousers, red aviators, and a pink garland. Ashish's designs, which are made in India, are always an example of the finest handiwork, but the level of detail and intricate fabrications of this collection were especially impressive, from hand-embroidered floral patterns (which were inspired by a design Ashish made as a teenager during a work placement in a Delhi clothing factory) to tinsel jeans and minidresses. "It’s nice to design things that people treasure," he continued. "This piece I designed when I was 16, someone had obviously kept that for 25 years and I found it in a vintage shop in Texas so I took it and redesigned it for this season."
Of course, it wouldn't be an Ashish show without an array of tongue-in-cheek slogans. A male model came out in a hoodie emblazoned with the word "masturbate" in interlocking red and yellow sequined circles, a play on the instantly recognizable Mastercard logo. Another hoodie, inspired by the Visa symbol, read "Viva L'Amore," while a sequined T-shirt reimagined the American Express logo with the words "American Excess."
For those who can remember Ashish's spring 2014 collection, the designer made a comment on hyper-consumption with a glittering bag similar to the Tesco carrier which instead featured the word "DISCO;" nother green Marks & Spencer-esque bag bore the letters "S&M." Again, Ashish masterfully remarked on Western excess with these witty slogans, explaining backstage that "it was also a take on consumer culture."
As the penultimate show on day three of London Fashion Week, when spirits are flagging and heels are dragging, we can always count on Ashish to rally and raise us with an impassioned show that was at once meaningful, moving and optimistic. It's one that has us fawning over the impressive designs and craftsmanship, but one that also leaves us thinking. And what more could we really want from a fashion show than just that?