Ahluwalia has delivered its spring/summer 2023 collection for London Fashion Week.
Called Africa is Limitless, it is a celebration of the continent, and the varied culture each country offers.
Priya Ahluwalia, the London-born designer of Indian and Nigerian heritage, wants to highlight the rich and varied nations of the continent that, despite being 54 separate countries, are all too often viewed as a singular entity.
Founded in 2018 the brand uses each collection to explore notions of black identity, within both a European and African setting, and has tackled such divisive topics as black hair styles and immigration. This collection is no different, offering a visual tour of a continent that is frequently overlooked.
Ahluwalia presented the collection during fashion week at Salters’ Hall Garden, a hidden garden in London built around a section of the Roman-era London Wall. It appeared bright and colourful against the greenery of the plants.
The collection draws on western, eastern, central and southern African nations, captured as loose head wraps, with startling use of colour and bold patterns across the repurposed dead stock fabrics. A man’s coat, for example, is made in two halves: of chocolate-coloured velvet on one side and a simple chequered fabric on the other, topped with an artfully tied head covering, decorated with strings of hanging beads.
Elsewhere stamps, maps and narrow strip woven fabrics are combined into a new pattern for a shirt and a pair of drawstring trousers, while a dress is carved — in typical Ahluwalia fashion — from contrasting cloth, cut in flowing, curving lines.
Speaking with Vogue, Ahluwalia explained that “in pop culture, people reference Africa as one homogenous place, [and] don’t think about all the different countries that make it up and how it’s so different”.
For the show, Ahluwalia immersed herself in research to find out the most relevant parts of each nation's culture, such as Nigerian Adire indigo fabric patterning, Ugandan barkcloth and the woven patterns of Ewe and Kente cloth from Ghana.
“The research I’ve done for this collection could probably inform about 10 collections,” she said. “Africa is limitless, and I really wanted to celebrate that.”