As one of the most anticipated shows in the London Fashion Week schedule, Priya Ahluwalia presented her SS23 collection on the site of the remaining London Wall. While guests sat within the confines of the site, looped around each other in a maze, Ahluwalia’s collection broke out – aptly entitled ‘Africa is Limitless’.
Aiming to readdress the historic, widespread misinformation surrounding African culture and people in the white-prioritising world, this show and collection showcased the energy, beauty and vibrancy of Africa as a continent, as a cultural blueprint, and as a limitless source of creativity. References were both explicit and enmeshed into the pieces: headdresses remained true to their original design, with added hanging jewels and beads from Kenyan and Rwandan cultures serving to draw the eye and emphasise the crafted structure of each piece.
Far from taking tokenistic emblems of African culture and countries, the show saw pieces that elevated “beyond the typical national colours and flag motifs steadfastly offered up and adorned as a satisfactory representation of those cultures”. As such, Priya sought inspiration from multifaceted areas: weaving, to musicians, to album covers from Cote d’Ivoire, and patterns seen in vintage museum blankets from Tunisia.
The colour palette was equally considered: the blue and cream hues were derived from Algeria’s stunning Notre Dame D’Afrique, and “the tones, textures and depth of watercolour on wood paintings from Mauritius find interpretation in print”. Cascading two pieces were updated with ruching and cutout detail, a technique which worked to elongate the body and add a tactile element to the texture of the piece. Elsewhere, we saw a bold green tailored suit, and blue-hued minidresses styled with a fur throw-over.
In each look, texture was blended, and details paid close attention to: a set of models walked with diamonte eyebrows, which complimented and accentuated bright spots on the garments themselves. There was a silhouette for everyone, and every occasion – tight midi slip dresses moved alongside oversized tailoring options.
We knew that Ahluwalia is one of the UK’s most exciting emerging design talents, blending personal heritage with elevated futurism – of which her work (and accolades) speak for themselves. But with SS23, her brand ethos was carved out and defined further: one of fusion and hybridisation, interweaving in all things, and a passionate resonance of her dual Indian – Nigerian heritage.
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