Monday 16 September 2019

A Shimmer of Sequins at Ashish in London

Long shorts decorated with mirrors and worn with a white shirt typify the Ashish aesthetic of mixing sportiness with glamour and simple silhouettes with intricate embellishment. Main photograph above by Grania Connors. Cover picture of the Stephane Rolland haute couture show by Elli Ioannou
The new Ashish collection for Spring/Summer 2020 was presented at a runway show under the soaring roof of Seymour Hall during London Fashion Week. The designer included his signature glimmering sequins combined with brilliant colour and pattern. Special report by Jeanne-Marie Cilento & Grania Connors

Lady Mary Charteris in the frow at Ashish
wearing a sequined rainbow jacket
Photo:Grania Connors
SITTING under the great arch of the Art Deco Seymour Hall in Marylebone, waiting for the Ashish show to begin, there is a buzz of excited conversation and laughter. The front row is filled with guests wearing the designer's luminous creations sparkling with sequins and vivid colour. Paloma Faith wears a crochet, georgette jumpsuit while singer Lady Mary Charteris is wearing a sequined rainbow bomber jacket and bright pink silk trousers.

Musicians play a dirge at one end of the hall while the whirr of the photographers' cameras fills the pit at the other. The show notes are minimal with a quote from controversial Indian spiritual leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, saying: “A little foolishness, enough to enjoy life, and a little wisdom to avoid errors, that will do.” Perhaps the designer's current philosophy of life.

The theatrical 1930s Seymour Hall in Marylebone
where the Ashish show was held.
Photo: Grania Connors
Ashish Gupta, originally from India, studied fine art in Delhi before he moved to London to complete an MA in fashion design at Central Saint Martins, graduating in 2000. Since he was discovered in 2001, he has carved out a career in London where he is not only known for rich, hand embroidery and brilliant hues but also for the political and social messages integral to his designs. Ashish is also considered a pioneer, championing diversity in the fashion industry. He is certainly a master of mixing high fashion with ready-to-wear and sporty designs with glamour. His combination of East and West, shimmering sequins and fine embroidery has attracted clients from Madonna to Taylor Swift.

“A little foolishness, enough to enjoy life, and a little wisdom to avoid errors, that will do.”

Billy Porter, Paloma Faith
and Adam Smith-Porter
after the show.
Photo: Grania
Ashish has won the NEWGEN award three times and has had his work exhibited at the V&A and The Met. The designer has a famous story about how he got his break into fashion which is worth recounting as it shows how some disasters can have silver linings. After he had finished his MA in London, he went to Paris for job interviews with fashion houses. But before even left the Gare Du Nord train station, his entire portfolio of work was stolen. He has said it was one of the worst moments of his life.

The designer had to get his tutor to send a letter to the High Commission in Paris because he had no papers and couldn't get back into the UK. He decided to go to India after the Paris debacle and create a limited collection of 10 pieces. A magazine editor saw them and bought a Harris Tweed sweatshirt with orange sequined bows lined with antique kimono fabric. The next week he got a call from a buyer at Browns and they have stocked Ashish's collections ever since.

The designer has always loved working with sequins and has made working with them an art form, creating a fluidity and shimmer that changes colour as the wearer moves. This season, sequins and tiny mirrors, were highlights of the new collection but the silhouettes were more utilitarian but still embellished with artisanal embroidery.

Ashish has made working with sequins an art form, creating a fluidity and shimmer that changes colour as the wearer moves

A voluminous dress embroidered
with different patterns and colours.
Photo: Grania Connors
One of the highlights of the show was model Neelam Gill wearing a long fuchsia gown for the finale covered in sequins carrying aloft a ceremonial branch. Other dresses had contrasting patterns and colours with mirrors sewn into the embroidery (see at right). Worn beneath the dress is a sequined shirt in stripes of bright blue, yellow and purple.

Decorative motifs are played down by wearing the pieces with simple canvas shoes and geeky glasses. Some models wore simple flowers in their hair and pale faces were enlivened with dark eyes ringed by black kohl.

Menswear was part of the show and the male models wore some of the collection's brightest pieces with broadly striped, sequined shirts and drawstring denim shorts covered in round mirrors.

There were also long, loose caftans worn with a deep V at the neck in dark-blue but highlighted with circular bands of bright pink and white. Other separates include a transparent magenta tank top embroidered with intricate lozenges of sequins and worn with high-waisted, patch-worked jeans covered in tiny mirrors and surrounded by fine beading. Ashish played with simple silhouettes for this collection but the complexity and
workmanship were still there to be seen up close.

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