Before this show season began the PR team behind industry publication the Business of Fashion distributed a missive urging designers, journalists, celebrities and creatives to adopt a white bandana. By wearing it themselves or working it into their collection, they symbolise the fact that, in these dark and uncertain times, we remain #tiedtogether regardless of race, sexuality, gender or religion. A website for the project links to donation pages for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The sentiment behind the idea is certainly one to be applauded, as are the donations which to date number approximately $20,000. But, the uptake of the white bandana itself has been decidedly low key. That should come as no surprise in London in particular, where the rules are made to be broken. Instead many designers so far this fashion month have channeled the emotion if not the action, with collections politicised to varying degrees.
Last season Ashish drew plaudits for his riposte to the Brexit vote and the rise of anti-immigrant and racist events and sentiment that occurred in the U.K. in its wake. This season he remained on his soap box, but chose to spread his message of love far and wide.
There are certain things to expect from an Ashish show: sequins being top of the list. And sequins there were aplenty. The set resembled a glitter strewn approximation of the Yellow Brick Road, complete with beds of poppies dotted alongside. The opening track was a voice choir version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, that anthem of gay resistance, and the first striped looks were veritable rainbows themselves.
There was more polish to this collection than has been true of Gupta’s work in the past. Colour and pattern were in abundance on the co-ed catwalk - checkerboard, stripes and tartan were all rendered in sequins. As were political slogans often teamed with cutesy cartoon animal motifs including rabbits, deer, ducks and kittens. 'Why be blue when you can be gay' and 'more glitter less twitter' were fun and feel good, while 'the pussy grabs back' and 'nasty woman' were more overt references to the American political situation. American ideals became a bit of a theme. A collaboration with Major League Baseball saw uniforms and warm-up gear given the full razzle dazzle treatment. Of the partnership Ashish Gupta said: 'I love baseball as an inspiration for equality and unity - the fact that it was the first sport to allow a person of colour to play professionally is incredible.'
Despite a huge broken heart at the mouth of the catwalk, the show seemed to be about love more than anything else. 'I would say it's about positivity in a time of so much confusion. It's about courage, equality, love and freedom,' said Gupta. A message we can all get behind, whether it's written in technicolor sequins or not.