“I feel like the whole world is turning so fucking right wing ... I think that as … people who work in the creative industry, we all need to … really fight back," said the designer.
Ashish Gupta’s shows are usually a phantasmagorical display of sartorialism, with sequined splendor and kaleidoscopic color. But his platform at London Fashion Week this season was a tad more somber.
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With a collection titled “Bollywood Bloodbath,” the British-Indian designer wanted to bring attention to post-Brexit xenophobia, highlighting the resplendence of multiculturalism through his clothes and diverse cast of models.
"I wanted to celebrate Indian culture in England," Gupta told Refinery29. "I was absolutely horrified by Brexit. It broke my heart. And I wanted to make a statement about that. (I wanted to) celebrate this culture, which is so beautiful, and such an integral part of life in this country."
"After 20 years of living in this country, I felt like 'Oh, am I actually unwelcome here?' I just felt really awful about it," he told i-D backstage
The show commenced with the performance of a blind sitar player whose stirring live performance built to a crescendo as a male model emerged in a glittering golden dress, a python draped over his shoulders.
With gender fluidity a core feature, a slew of models sporting "traditional" Indian fabrics cut in "Western" silhouettes came out one by one, wearing sequined tracksuits, double denim, slip dresses and saris.
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"There was a slightly heartbroken vibe about (the collection), with the reds, pinks, and muted golds and greens. They were celebratory colors, popped in with solemn palettes," the designer said about his collection. The melancholy of the show was also displayed through tears drawn on the models’ faces.
With an all-Black model cast during his Spring/Summer 2015 show, Gupta followed in that trajectory with his casting this year as well, which included the British model of Indian descent Neelam Gill, Sri-Lankan born Londoner Suren Seneviratne, Colombian model Ricardo Dominguez and the New-York-based queer artist of West Indian descent Richie Shazam.
Commenting on the predominance of white models in the industry, he said, "I suppose it’s an artistic decision, I’m not one to comment on other people’s aesthetic or casting decisions. It’s a choice everyone is free to take, but my view is that we live in such a diverse world that I don’t understand how the view of beauty can be so narrow. I think that fashion is meant to be aspirational. If you have all white girls on the runway, what does that say about people’s aspirations? I think that’s quite shocking."
"I know it's just fashion, but I think it's really important to not just have this narrow version of beauty," he added. "I think there's such a big battle to be fought right now because I feel like the whole world is turning so fucking right wing. It really frightens me, and I think that as artists, as journalists, people who work in the creative industry, we all need to gather force and really fight back against that".