This yr’s H&M Design Award winner – graduate of London’s College of Westminster Priya Ahluwalia – says loads in regards to the trend trade’s present drive for sustainability. The ultimate befell in Berlin on 28 November, a metropolis recognized for championing youth and innovation, with a panel together with Ann-Sofie Johansson, artistic advisor at H&M, Vogue Germany editor-in-chief Christiane Arp and stylist Jan-Michael Quammie. Earlier winners have included Stefan Cooke (in 2018) and Richard Quinn (in 2017), each graduates of London’s Central Saint Martins, recognized for his or her recent forward-thinking strategy to approach, silhouettes and supplies. And this yr has seen design taken to the subsequent stage, with a world eco-fashion focus.
Priya Ahluwalia satisfied the judges principally due to her sustainable strategy, mentioned Johansson – she works solely with classic materials and makes use of second-hand clothes as the idea for her designs. It’s a difficulty that’s changing into more and more vital to H&M, and the broader trend trade, Johansson provides. After graduating with an MA in June, Ahluwalia launched Ahluwalia Studio, and the prize fund of €50,000 will little doubt assist in furthering her success.
Right here, Ahluwalia talks to Vogue about her sustainable imaginative and prescient, her love of menswear, how her twin Nigerian-Indian heritage influences her design and what she’s received deliberate for subsequent yr…
Vogue: Has it all the time been clear to you that you just needed to create menswear?
Priya Ahluwalia: That got here fairly quick, sure. Throughout my bachelor’s research, I began out designing womenswear, however after a menswear mission, I realised I preferred that loads higher.
However there doesn’t should be such an enormous distinction between the 2, does there?
Sure, precisely! These divisions don’t have a lot to do with how individuals truly costume and eat trend anymore. However, sure menswear traditions fascinate me, the sequence of designing and tailoring items. And there are fascinating guidelines which have advanced over time.
For instance, the patch on sportswear is all the time on the left aspect – historically you need it to sit down over your coronary heart, since you love your crew a lot. This sort of symbolism has introduced me to menswear. And I like sportswear from previous a long time.
What’s your favorite decade?
The 1990s, in fact. I actually like it. I’m 25 now, so in fact I’m nostalgic in regards to the 1990s. However I additionally see nice issues from the 1980s, I’m discovering all types of recent issues from that period.
There’s a number of nostalgia from Technology Y (born within the 1980s and 1990s) proper now. How is it filtering into your designs?
After I design, I all the time take a look at outdated images, particularly of my household. The silhouettes they used to put on all the time give me inspiration. One in all my uncles might be my most vital muse – there’s a image of him in a down jacket that I hold enthusiastic about.
One in all your most vital design rules is to make use of classic items and materials. Have you ever all the time collected classic garments?
As a teen, sure. I began once I was about 16. Discovering good classic wasn’t that straightforward again then, right this moment there are much more choices. However at the least the retailers on Brick Lane in East London had been nonetheless good and never as overpriced as they’re right this moment. One in all my hacks at the moment was to go to the richer areas of London, Richmond for instance. Individuals there threw away a lot and so many good issues, unbelievable! You can purchase items by Issey Miyake for 5 kilos! Now, I additionally do a number of on-line analysis. However truly there’s nothing higher than discovering piece of classic after hours of trawling via the retailers.
The place do you discover a lot of the supplies you utilize in your designs?
There are large depots that kind out second-hand clothes and retailers that deal in giant portions of material. Generally, I want flat materials to work with, typically I can deconstruct current items. In my subsequent assortment, I’ll largely be utilizing supplies constructed from recycled plastic.
Your strategy may be very up to date, however there was a number of scepticism round recycling and sustainability in trend. Have your tutors all the time been open to your method of working?
Some had been extra open, some much less. Nevertheless it has all the time been a bonus that I exploit a mixture of current clothes and outdated materials. I additionally fully deconstruct and re-manufacture them – I minimize them open, change the cuts fully, flip them round to make solely new items. In a method, it simply means there’s yet one more job as a result of I’ve to carry them again to their authentic material state. Many individuals did not perceive that. That is why they had been taking a look at me fairly critically for a very long time. However throughout my grasp’s, the time had come, I used to be absolutely supported in doing this.
Is the nostalgic aesthetic or sustainable course of extra vital to you?
Each. I am a nostalgic particular person, however I do not need to reside previously. The phrase sustainability typically scares me. Some individuals hate it. Possibly I wasn’t any totally different again then, earlier than I actually began to cope with the worldwide cycle of clothes. Sustainable trend had such a foul repute for therefore lengthy, it instantly made me consider one thing fabricated from bamboo, which I definitely do not need to put on. No less than that is the way it’s all the time been amongst my mates.
Right now it is totally different.
Proper. Now that is altering as a result of there’s a number of sustainably made stuff that individuals actually need to put on. Now sustainability stands for cool, forward-thinking, with the long run in thoughts. That is additionally vital in my use of classic clothes: that we expect forward. My trend shouldn’t be a #throwback. I simply need my viewers to like the items – no matter the truth that it’s classic and sustainable. In the event that they suppose that is good too, nice.
Do you intention to carry out new collections every season, or work in direction of a extra everlasting assortment that can develop regularly?
For the time being, I am working by seasons and I see the items as small capsule collections. There are all the time some items which have the identical minimize, however are constructed from totally different supplies, as I solely have a restricted provide of every material. For instance, if a retailer orders 3,000 of my crimson patchwork trousers, the patches shall be totally different. So every bit is exclusive. I hope that this may encourage individuals to maintain my items eternally.
Which might even be very sustainable.
Precisely. Many individuals overlook that that is additionally what sustainability is about. Not solely about how one thing is made, but additionally how lengthy it’s being worn. If somebody buys a sweater in a fast-fashion retailer, however wears it for years and cares for it, then it can be sustainable. It all the time will depend on the standpoint. Quick-fashion corporations like H&M are additionally rethinking – living proof, they selected me as this yr’s winner!
Might your strategy be commercialised?
Just lately, my major focus has been to seek out even higher and extra environment friendly methods of acquiring supplies. However for now, that’s going to stay my well-kept commerce secret…
Inform us in regards to the two journeys which have had an enormous affect on you: one to India and one to Nigeria.
My mom is Indian and my father Nigerian. I went to Nigeria to go to him and a few kinfolk, he now lives in Lagos once more.
The town that’s being hyped as one of many coolest on the earth.
It’s! The cool factor about Nigeria is that everybody there’s a fighter, everybody needs to create one thing, everybody needs to be somebody, the whole lot is quick. That is what makes individuals artistic and town so thrilling. It’s so good to see that the world understands this now, and that many Nigerian artists even have worldwide success. All these detrimental clichés about Africa are lastly altering, there’s not simply poverty and struggle. For me, the best way many individuals costume in Nigeria was additionally completely inspiring. Particularly the individuals promoting garments there, who wore a compelling mixture of second-hand garments from all around the world – it did not appear like second-hand, although, I solely knew as a result of it was one thing like a T-shirt from a mud-run in England. In conversations with them, I discovered that every one second-hand garments must be purchased in African international locations and that they aren’t truly being donated, which is what we expect in Europe. I came upon that Panipat in India is the place the place essentially the most second-hand garments are being traded worldwide.
And that is the place you went subsequent?
Precisely, that made sense anyway, as a result of my mom is from India and I hadn’t seen my grandmother who lives there for such a very long time. What I noticed in Panipat was overwhelming and surprising. A lot clothes that no person needed at first. As soon as you’ve got seen that, you may’t simply sit again and do nothing. No less than I could not. So it turned clear to me which method my trend ought to go.