London-based designer Supriya Lele shares the story behind her feel-good Spring/Summer 2021 collection, which is inspired by the transformative power of dressing up
Upon returning to her south London studio after lockdown, British-Indian designer Supriya Lele was moved to see her small, all-female team dressing, day by day, with a progressive sense of flair. “I think we had all felt the need to have a bit more fun with our appearances, to feel good,“ Lele tells AnOther. This transformative power of dressing up, of clothing’s ability to make you feel good, even in the darkest of times, went on to form the basis of Lele’s optimistic and sensual Spring/Summer 2021 collection, which is showcased here on AnOthermag.com via a new short film created by Jack Day.
Like many of her peers, this season Lele had to think of a new way to present her Spring/Summer 2021 collection amid coronavirus-induced restrictions, which ruled out the possibility of a traditional, in-real-life runway show. For Lele, though, this situation presented itself as a creative opportunity, rather than a road block. “I love shows,” she says. “But I also highly value the importance of strong imagery.” So, during digital London Fashion Week, Lele revealed her collection via a series of beautiful, pared-back images shot in the stairwell of the designer’s studio.
Melding slinky lingerie-inspired silhouettes, intricate draping riffing on traditional Indian dress, and grungey influences gleaned from her adolescent years as a heavy-metal fan, the collection made a strong case for a “lo-fi” sort of sensuality that oozes confidence and play. Lele began creating the vibrant collection from an array of initial references, which ranged from films by celebrated Indian director Satyajit Ray to images of one of the 1990s’ most outlandishly dressed celebrity couples: Madonna and NBA star Dennis Rodman. A reflection of the designer’s multifaceted identity, Lele deftly weaves these eclectic references into her colourful world, producing a collection of feather-light, gauzy pieces in a joyful and warming array of summer hues, from azure blue to turquoise, fuschia and chocolatey brown. Evident in these bright and sensual pieces is a desire to make you feel good – as Lele puts it, she hopes her S/S21 designs make whoever wears them feel “confident, sexy and strong”.
Jack Day’s beautiful, short film – styled by Emilie Kareh – was shot during the fitting for the S/S21 lookbook, splicing together up-close photographs of the meticulously crafted pieces with tactile footage of straps being adjusted and models moving gracefully in the clothes. Also shot in Lele’s studio – with clothing hanging from ceiling light fixtures and windows – the video is a testament to the resilient, DIY spirit of London’s emerging designers during this challenging season, when many have found inventive ways to celebrate beauty in the face of uncertainty.
Here, speaking in her own words, Lele tells the story behind the collection.
“When myself and my team returned back to the studio after being in lockdown, we collectively felt that we wanted to start dressing up a little bit more each day. I think we had all felt the need to have a bit more fun with our appearances; to feel good.
“I think we just enjoyed being able to wear pieces that we hadn’t over lockdown; it was a gradual thing, but we all felt a sense of optimism when we returned back to the studio. This translated into the collection with the use of ‘optimistic’ fabrics, such as playful sequins, touches of lace and the colour palette: vivid blue mixed with hot pink, to lime.
“Overall I found the experience [of lockdown] quite mixed, I found it difficult at the beginning to get into the creative headspace, but I found other outlets like cooking, reading, watching lots of films really helped me. After a while I found myself itching to get back into the studio, and then I felt a lot more creative! I think perhaps having that space and clarity to think has been valuable.
“Our early reference points [for the S/S21 collection] included imagery of 90s Madonna and Dennis Rodman, old band tees, Satyajit Ray film stills … There are removable elements within certain pieces – such as the thong within the trouser – so that you could choose how you would like to wear it. Or, within the draped dresses, the straps can be moved around quite easily, which changes the drape on the body; so you can really change how you would like to wear the pieces depending on your mood or environment.
“Personally, I feel that overall there are so many pieces which define this season it’s hard to make a choice. I love the trousers with the underwear element, and the ruched blue dress.
“I love shows, but I also highly value the importance of strong imagery. I think it really depends on the designer, and how they feel it’s best to communicate their vision. I don’t think that brands should be limited to showcasing only in standardised formats, I think the beauty of our industry is that there is an openness and support for new thinking.
“The development and fitting process is integral to what we do in the studio; this is how the collections really come together. We really wanted to showcase this aspect of how the collection comes to life [through the Jack Day-shot film].
“I think a more sustainable way of working is needed, a bit of a slower pace. As an emerging brand, we had to work at an even smaller capacity, so what we made reflected the capabilities of our team and studio at that time; a smaller body of work.”