As distinct as traditional Indian dressing and 1990s minimalism may seem, these opposing forces come together memorably in the hands of the British designer Supriya Lele. Known for her layered silhouettes that flatter all female forms, Lele began exploring her Indian heritage while studying fashion at London’s Royal College of Art (she graduated with a master’s degree in 2016), where she also realised the importance of experimentation in her creative process. She realised that ‘the only way I can work is in 3D, on the stand, by draping’, she says. The process ‘really set the tone for what I wanted to do going forward’.
Lele was selected to show her graduate collection with the pioneering design incubator Fashion East. Her debut at London Fashion Week in 2017 was staged at Tate Modern, and she continued to show under Fashion East’s stewardship for the next three seasons. In 2019, Lele was sponsored by the British Fashion Council through its Newgen initiative and in 2020, she took home part of the LVMH Prize Fund, which was split equally among eight finalists (also including label Chopova Lowena, see opposite) for the first time.
Industry success aside, Lele’s brand of female-centric inclusivity could not feel more sincere. Her S/S21 collection exuded a panache inspired by how her all-female team dressed immediately after the first round of lockdown restrictions had eased. Despite the logistical challenges of its creation, the collection encapsulates a youthful sexiness. Minimalist silhouettes are amplified by vibrant shades of azure blue and fuchsia; lingerie-inspired details such as delicate ties gingerly hold up draped tops and dresses; and embellishments such as sequins and lace add finesse. Several bright, Madras-check pieces were cut from fabric sourced from Lele’s grandmother’s favourite sari shop in Jabalpur, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
‘What the pandemic has done is bring people together,’ Lele reflects. ‘Everyone has gone through this together and there’s an openness to the [fashion] system changing; to people showing in their own way and different methods. I think we all really needed that break in the cycle and rhythm.’ supriyalele.com