Priya Ahluwalia is addressing the fashion industry’s wasteful approach to production and consumption with her debut collection
“I don’t want to add to fashion’s footprint,” says menswear designer Priya Ahluwalia. The young talent is dedicated to using her sustainable label, Ahluwalia Studio, to make a comment about over consumption of clothing, while taking personal inspiration from her duel Nigerian and Indian heritage.
Ahluwalia was born and raised in South West London and first studied fashion at UCA, after which she worked at Ivy Park and Wales Bonner before going on to do her MA at the University of Westminster. It was here that she was set a project that started her thinking about how harmful the industry can be to the environment. “The task was ‘Imagine it is 2043, the world has been depleted by the crippling impact humans have enforced. What would you design?’” She didn’t have to imagine. Instead she went to visit her father in Lagos where she discovered the markets where large charities off-load huge amounts of second hand clothing. “I was like, ‘Hang on, what is going on and what can I do to make a change?’”
She then did some research into this flow of fashion and next travelled to Panipat in India where she visited a global centre for recycling. Again she was confronted by mountains of surplus garments. “I received so much love and hospitality from everyone out there but what I saw, I couldn’t forget,” she recalls. “I’d never seen anything like it, so that’s when I knew I was going to take this issue on.”
Her SS19 graduate collection made use of just such unwanted garments. “Focusing on waste materials means you’re limited to using what you find. You have to make things fit, so my design process was like a puzzle,” she says of the challenge of creating a cohesive, directional collection from second hand denim, wool and nylon items. She developed a patchwork technique to form new textures and graphic patterns on tailored and sporty pieces and layered looks to reference the way the Indian men she observed dressed. She also bolstered the concept by creating the photography book, Sweet Lassi, which documented her trip in India.
Since completing her studies this summer, Ahluwalia’s continued her research into ethical fashion methodologies and has shot a new series of lookbook images that further the storytelling of the collection. She’s also been nominated for the H&M Design Award on the strength of her graduate offering and travels to Berlin for the final at the end of November. Whether she wins or not, this is one designer whose heartfelt passion should see her go far. “I want people to be happy when they wear my clothes,” she says simply. “I want them to walk into a shop, see them and want to wear them for a very long time.”