Priya Ahluwalia is the London-raised Indian-Nigerian fashion designer that breathes diversity into your old clothes.
Priya Ahluwalia is one of the leading forces pushing for a fashion that reckons with multicultural representation. With a father from Nigerian descent and an Indian mother, Priya is not unfamiliar with a multi-ethnic and intersectional Britain, one which has been vastly underrepresented in the industry.
Graduating with an MS from Westminster, Priya set off in creating Ahluwalia, a brand focused on Priya’s heritage as an Indian-Nigerian born in London, as well as an exploration on ways in which we can make better clothes without doing so from scratch. The result is a brand that breathes a new life into vintage garments, adding value to clothes which would otherwise get given to charity and, little did we know, end up in recycling centres in India, Nigeria, Senegal or Ghana.
It was through visits to the Aswani market in Lagos where Priya found obscure British clothing and began to uncover the journey of recycled garments. It was an eye-opener, leading her to discover Panipat in India, the global centre for recycling clothes. She began to document her findings, which she started in 2017, and published in a book called Sweet Lassi, made in collaboration with @htwnldn.
In terms of fashion and her brand, Ahluwalia set up her ventures in the world of menswear, a part of the fashion industry which Priya hints to be stagnant. Without much change in the last 50 years, Priya began by wanting to disrupt the traditional menswear uniforms. Her approach was to create fun, wearable pieces and the result is a brand that feels fresh and different from the staples of fashion.
And Ahluwalia’s talent is catching on. Winning a myriad of big-deal prizes such as the Queen Elizabeth II Award For British Design, the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund or the LVMH Prize in 2020 meant she could grow her brand exponentially — and people are loving it.
Priya’s fight for diversity doesn’t confine itself to her designs; she has been trying to fight for a more inclusive and diverse fashion industry all the way from the depths of the boardroom. When she collaborated with Mulberry, she asked to have the brand’s diversion and inclusion policy re-considered. In seeing the brand’s stores populated with Black staff, Priya said to Another Man Magazine that it was one of her proudest moments. “They were so happy with it. Apparently they all went and got their hair done shortly after the announcement”.
So whats’ next for Ahluwalia? The latest is their SS23 collection, titled “Africa is Limitless”, which celebrates the diversity and richness of African culture. The collection breathes life and joy through patterned cardigans and bold colour combinations walking down a tapestry runway.