Designer Diaries: Ashish Gupta

Designer Diaries: London designer Ashish on what Pride means to him and why inclusivity will always reign supreme

In our new monthly series, Designer Diaries, digital fashion writer Naomi May chats to the faces behind some of fashion’s buzziest brands to pick their brains on the future of fashion and what an average day looks like for them.

‘Love Will Win’, ‘I’m Having A Shit Day Thanks’ and ‘More Glitter, Less Twitter’ are just a trio of the slogans that Delhi-born and London-based designer Ashish Gupta has become known for.

Gupta burst spectacularly onto the fashion scene in 2001, after earning his bachelor’s degree from Middlesex University and master’s degree from Central Saint Martins. And in the years since, his eponymous label has garnered a legion of famous fans and a reputation for its tongue-in-cheek references.

Indeed, after a collective year of sweat panted non-glory, Gupta’s get-ups are a welcome reprieve from the elasticated waistbands we’ve been stationed in. The fashion fantasies he creates with his clothes are high on glitter, sequins and fun and low on beige and neutrals. For those looking to adhere to fashion’s love-in with minimalism, look elsewhere, for Gupta is a master, a magpie drawn to anything sparkly and ever-so-slightly provocative.

The designer has recently dipped his sequinned toe into the world of interiors – following fellow fashion designers Henry Holland, Diane von Furstenberg and Hannah Weiland of Shrimps into the homeware lair – with a plan for more Gupta gems in the pipeline.

Given that it’s Pride, and Ashish has become a brand that embodies inclusivity and diversity, we caught up with Gupta as the first in our new series, Designer Diaries, whereby we ask the names behind some of our favourite labels what a day in their life looks like and their hopes and dreams for the future of fashion. 

What does an average day look like for you? 

I have insomnia so I usually wake up exhausted and I need a strong coffee before I can function. My commute to work takes an hour and I usually spend that time making lists of stuff I need to get done, catching up on emails, or talking to my mum or our factory in India.

Once I’m at the studio I try and get a bit of work done (research, fittings, designing, admin etc.) and then I spend at least an hour worrying about stuff. I walk part of the way home because it helps me feel a bit calmer, then catch the train and use that time to read whatever book I am reading at the moment.

Dinner alternates between healthy home-cooking or a guilty take-out. Afterwards I usually end up on the couch with a movie or binge-watching the Real Housewives.

Do you have any rituals that get your creative juices flowing that you do each day?

My journey to work is usually a good time to gather my thoughts and get ready for the day. It’s nice when I see something or someone on the way that inspires me or surprises me. I try and look at lots of things that might inspire me - art and fashion books, films, and I people watch a lot.  

What was your journey into fashion?

I did a degree in fine art in India, but I really wanted to do fashion – so after I finished my degree I came to the UK, thinking I’d study fashion for a year and then see where it took me. I ended up on the master’s programme at Central Saint Martins under the late legendary Louise Wilson. Yedu Yun, who was the buyer at Browns Fashion in London at the time, spotted my work and placed an order soon after I graduated.

Let’s say you’re prepping for a new collection  what’s the first step on your journey of designing it?

A lot of research and references. I like to look at lots of different things so I can figure out what I love and what I don’t. I don’t really care about being “theme-y”. Sometimes if I’m watching a film I’ll pause it to take a picture of something I’ve seen that inspires me. I love seeing how people dress on the street and on the train to work.

If I’m honest, it’s quite organic and I’m never scared to change direction if something isn’t working. It’s a bit like panning for gold and you keep going until you see something sparkly emerge.

Where do you turn to for inspiration? 

People in the street, movies, my team, friends, travelling, TV, a conversation, it grows from there – there isn’t just one place I go to. Sometimes just finding one thing like a button or a photo can spark a whole collection.  

Do you feel responsibility as a designer to make your brand as inclusive and representative as possible?

I have always felt very strongly about equitable representation and inclusivity. My label has always and will always stand for this.

Fashion is a saturated industry - how do you cut through the noise?

I do what I think I am good at and I am grateful that people like it and buy it. I think what I do is quite specialised and it’s not seasonal.

Let’s talk Pride. What does Pride mean to you personally and as a designer?

Homosexuality was decriminalised by India’s Supreme Court in 2018. Prior to that, India had colonial-era laws which made sexual activities “against the order of nature” punishable by law and carried a life sentence. So I grew up in a country where it was difficult to be openly gay, and for the majority it still is a very homophobic society. The LGBTQIA+ communities still face lots of legal and social difficulties.

The first time I heard or experienced Pride was in my early twenties, after I came to England. It was amazing to see queer people occupying public spaces and celebrating loudly and openly. So for me, Pride really represents the importance of visibility and acceptance.  

What are some common misconceptions of the queer community that you wish you could set right?

I think one of the misconceptions is that we are all the same. In actual fact, we are so many different communities with different experiences and different stories and backgrounds.

If you could go back and give your younger self a piece of sage advice, what would it be and why?

I’m not good with advice - can I give myself the lottery numbers instead?

What does the future for Ashish hold?

Hopefully more collections and more homeware. I’d like to do more collaborations with interesting people. And I’d also like to write a book about my experiences as an immigrant.

Images: courtesy of Ashish.

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