Ahluwalia is setting the standard for sustainability in the UK. Exploring the life of deadstock and vintage clothing through a slew of textile traditions, Priya is slowly beginning to address the fashion industry’s wasteful approach to production and consumption. For example, her latest F/W 2020 collection ‘Frequency’ was fully thrifted and repurposed. The jeans were sourced from a denim factory in Tunisia that uses organic and recycled cotton, the beaded embroidery was done by a social enterprise in India and the patchwork shirting was sponsored by a company called Scoop that wanted to utilise their excess fabric.
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Bigger companies are now beginning to see the benefits of collaborating with younger, sustainable leaders like Ahluwalia. Adidas has started sending her their deadstock and damaged inventory to be repurposed. As with most repurposed clothing, it’s hard to ensure that each piece will be exactly the same, Ahluwalia takes the next step by training her consumers in this practice.
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Born and raised in South West London, Ahluwalia studied fashion at UCA and went on to work with Ivy Park and Wales Bonner before doing her MA in Menswear at the University of Westminster. One of her classes required her to do a project that catapulted her thought towards the harmful effects of the fashion industry. The task asked students to answer the following—“Imagine it’s 2043, the world has been depleted by the crippling impact humans have enforced. What would you design?” There wasn’t any imagination needed. Ahluwalia travelled to visit her father in Lagos, where she discovered markets filled with endless amounts of discarded second-hand clothing and fabric waste. This was her wake-up call.
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In Nigerian and Indian cultures there’s a whole culture of re-using, repurposing and hand-me-downs that Ahluwalia is bringing forward to today. A large chunk of both populations is below the poverty line, hence unable to consume at a rapid pace. A lot of conservation here is built from need and also tradition. Every Indian kid growing up knew the special drawer or cabinet in their house that was reserved for old plastic, paper bags, wrapping paper and bits of scrap material. Metal biscuit tins became sewing kits, books that fell apart were rebound, new buttons sewn onto old shirts, patchwork quilts made from old saris. Her asymmetrical, pieced-together clothing really echoes these practices.
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Some fashion labels today find it easy to co-opt sustainability but fail to deliver on their planet-friendly promises. Ahluwalia is breaking this habit and we’re here for it.
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