Since its start in 1999, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “Fashion in Motion” catwalk series has showcased storied design houses including Christian Lacroix, Hardy Amies, Gianfranco Ferré and Missoni. Yet, its most recent incarnation, on October 23, spotlighted Indian-born designer Ashish Gupta, whose label Ashish is known for blending sportswear with sequins, as well as the occasional political or pop culture statement.
According to Series Curator Cassie Davies-Strodder, it was a decision that was vindicated by the record-breaking 13 minutes it took to sell the 1,200 tickets for the show.
She explains: ”From a curatorial point of view, Ashish’s work is undeniably urban and subversive, yet he crosses the line into couture with his craftwork and techniques. His work is also striking enough that it can hold its own in the Raphael Gallery, where the shows are held. [Given] his 10th anniversary this year, we just had to approach him about holding a retrospective of his career.”
Sequins have all but become Gupta’s signature, and he uses them to artful effects. The Mona Lisa was a large motif on a short shift dress in his Spring-Summer 2010 collection (pictured above), while an ensemble of sunflowers from Spring-Summer 2012, while being the designer’s take on “all things love and romance,” certainly evoked Vincent van Gogh’s iconic painting.
A pioneer of slogan clothing, Gupta has appropriated phrases such as “Love Will Win”, “Shut Up”, and “Same Old Chic” — as well as images of the Coca-Cola slogan and the poop Emoji— in sequins of various colors, to express his thoughts wide-ranging issues from geopolitics to LGBT rights to pop culture.
Gupta, a Central Saint Martin’s graduate, was first “discovered” by Browns Focus, when the luxury store’s former head buyer Yeda Yun spotted her friend wearing a houndstooth jumper with neon slashes of his design, and immediately knew she had to stock the designer.
Even today, Browns Focus' womenswear buyer Rebecca Osei-Baidoo observes: “With Ashish, we rarely see a fan base so devout: We sell out of his clothes continually. That to us spoke volumes of his appeal.”
Alluding to how Gupta’s shows are known for their hysterical screaming by groupies and fashion students, Davies-Strodder says: “We have attended Ashish’s fashion shows for years and we love the hoopla and humour around him. Also, the clothes and atmosphere he creates are a wonderful contrast to what is obviously somewhat of a serious museum setting.”
Meanwhile, the designer himself was allowed to curate his own show, and amongst his picks were an ombré flapper dress, a green sequined gown and his iconically embellished and emblazoned “Vogue” distressed boyfriend jeans.
He told Blouin Artinfo: “I picked pieces that I personally loved over the past 10 years, not just ones that had commercial or pop appeal. It also gave me a chance to archive my collections: I had rooms full of boxes and all the pieces were pulled out and organized — and that was a very useful and hugely emotional experience.”