Ten’s To See: ‘Ashish: Fall in Love and Be More Tender’ at the William Morris Gallery

How dull would our industry be without Ashish Gupta? The Dehli-born, London-based designer’s eponymous label is renowned for his use of vivid sequins and its painstakingly intricate craft which has positioned him as one of the city’s most beloved designers. Celebrating 20 years since he launched his own business, Walthamstow’s William Morris Gallery has opened the first retrospective of Ashish’s work, showcasing 60+ designs from the brand’s back catalogue.

Titled Fall in Love and Be More Tender, the exhibition – co-curated by Roisin Inglesby and Studio Voltaire’s Joe Scotland – tours through a slew of Ashish’s greatest hits – many of which have been worn by the industry’s biggest musicians. (Whilst preparing for the exhibition, Ashish has been busy designing custom tour looks for Taylor Swift.) From a tongue-in-cheek ‘Hail Satan’ jumper, to a glistening twinset designed to resemble a crocheted blanket and supermarket carrier bags pastiched to read ‘Disco’ instead of ‘Tesco’ and ‘S&M’ in place of ‘M&S’.

Some of the exhibition’s highlights come from Ashish’s most recent collections, which have seen the designer, for the first time, produce work informed by his Indian heritage. “When I started, I stayed away from a lot of references that I knew just because I felt that it would stereotype me very quickly,” the designer told us last October. His most recent outings have touched on Bollywood magazines from the Seventies and the cross-cultural styles he would see in the immigration queue at Heathrow during his days as a student at Central Saint Martins. The designer has also began an on-going collaboration with Ashish Shah, whose photographs of the brand’s collections, shot in Ashish Gupta’s native New Dehli, appear throughout the exhibition. The photographer also worked on a short film featured in the exhibition which follows the designer as he travels between London and New Dehli, building a collection in both cities.

Behind the glamour and the glitz of Ashish’s collections is an air of defiance. The designer has often used designs as a form protest. His 2016 ‘Immigration’ slogan tee, for instance, was a response to former US president, Donald Trump, taking office. Another section of the exhibition is dedicated to Ashish’s AW17 collection The Yellow Brick Road, a rainbow-hued love letter to queer bodies globally.

Fiercely independent and thoroughly devoted to creating fashion that brings fantasy and joy, two decades in and Ashish is shining brighter than ever.

Photography by Nicola Tree for William Morris Gallery. ‘Ashish: Fall in Love and Be More Tender’ is open until September 10, 2023 at the William Morris Gallery.


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