The initial announcement came some hours before Ashish AW14 made its fashion week debut at the Tate Modern, then the next thing we knew Lily Allen was in bed Instagramming photos of her light up Buffalo trainers, declaring them her dream shoes and telling us she hoped they’d still be real in the morning.
Likely to be the star attraction – we’d hazard a guess – said shoes are just one (remote controlled) component of the new Ashish for Topshop collection, which also features toweling jumpers, transparent rucksacks and fishnet dresses.
“I think it's a tongue in cheek look at modern celebrity culture, and social media celebrities. The idea of how you could be on holiday and behave like a star but not actually be one,” says designer Ashish Gupta, before gushing: “It’s the most fun collection I have ever done with Topshop! It feels a lot more diverse than before.”
Marking ten years of collaboration with the high street store – and ten years of Ashish mainline showing at London Fashion Week, “I actually don’t know where the time has gone” – the ‘before’ referred to includes sweatshirts bearing fried breakfasts, leopard print snow gear, and zebra print peep toes (the flashing Buffalos of 2009).
Says the designer of working with the brand: “It’s incredible how you can pretty much do anything, the resources are amazing. I know how the process works, and they know how I work, so it's never been anything less than a pleasure.”
The only downside he reckons, is the timeframe for designing: “Sometimes I'll get an idea last minute and want to add something new and it's too late.” It’s a minor frustration for a process that by his own admission, reaches out to a wider audience than a “small independent label” ever could.
Repeatedly described as the King of Sequins for his excessive use of the decorative feature in his collections, Gupta’s collaborative lines have steered clear of such adornment for the most part. So what differentiates the Ashish girl from the one buying his Topshop collections, apart from the obvious price point variations?
“I think the Ashish girl mixes good taste and bad. She's trashy but sophisticated, classy but vulgar. She also loves sequins!” he reasons. “The Ashish x Topshop girl is just that little bit cheekier sometimes.”
One specific Ashish girl comes to mind in our conversation, the stylist Anna Trevelyan, with whom Gupta collaborates on his catwalk presentations and who as Instragram testifies, is queen at mixing the good with the bad.
“I love Anna's aesthetic. Sometimes it's completely opposite to what I like, and that is a good thing, because you create something new, or that you never thought of,” he decides. “She always brings something unexpected to the table. She never thinks anything is too much or too far.”
Too far more recently, has translated as not a sartorial choice but something altogether more politically charged, as AW14’s closing look reached out to the LGBT community in the form of a sequin top bearing rainbow colours and the message ‘love will win’.
For a label most noted for celebrating the garish, the message addressed another side of Gupta’s character. He tells Clash, “I think a lot of regressive stuff has happened with LGBT rights in the last year. Putin’s anti-gay policies in Russia were the most talked about, especially with the Sochi Olympics happening around the time of fashion week. Also, I was in Delhi before fashion week, and closer to home, the Supreme Court of India overturned a 2009 ruling that had previously decriminalised homosexual acts. So it was just both these events that were happening around the same time as fashion week and we thought it would be a good idea to make a statement about it.”
He adds, “The world feels like an increasingly intolerant and regressive place if you look at what’s happening in countries like India (where I am from originally), Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon. So I think it’s important sometimes to highlight issues like this.”
Topshop’s endorsement will likely only further emphasise the message, as a new set of people discover the label, via Instagram most probably; “I’m addicted, but I don’t use Twitter,” attests Ashish of what he sees as “the biggest revolution” within the industry of the last decade (social media).
As for the next ten years, he simply wants to keep doing the job he loves: “I'd like just to be able to keep doing that, but also to just be happy. Being happy is the hardest thing.”
Words and styling: Zoe Whitfield
Photographer: Federico Ferrari
Make-up: Gina Blondell using Liz Earle
Hair: Akira Yamada using TIGI
Model: Katy Sexton @ FM London
Ashish x Topshop is released on 29th May, available in-store and online www.topshop.com.