Ashish Autumn/Winter 2020

What brings you joy? A weath­ered old jumper; a moment of per­fect ecsta­sy on a dance-floor; per­haps the hum­ble com­pa­ny of close friends? The pur­suit of joy has become a fix­ture of our day-to-day lives, its increased impor­tance a con­se­quence of the gen­er­al unease and uncer­tain­ty that plague cur­rent times. But the sub­scrip­tion-plan strate­gies we rely on to reach it rarely get us any­where close, leav­ing us with a syn­thet­ic ren­der­ing of hap­pi­ness, not the soul-replen­ish­ing feel­ing we crave. Joy, after all, is fleet­ing rather than peren­ni­al, inci­den­tal rather than planned.

It’s this light, ephemer­al glee that fuels Ashish AW20, a loud, proud coun­ter­point to the dark clouds that loom out­side. At a time when tomor­row has nev­er looked less cer­tain, this is a call to cel­e­brate the colour and fan­ta­sy to be found in the here and now. To say that pat­terns and prints fea­ture promi­nent­ly would be an under­state­ment: across tai­lored jack­ets, pants, and hal­ter neck jump­suits, famil­iar pol­ka dots, zebra stripes and leop­ards spots have been rein­ter­pret­ed. There are block­ish geo­met­ric pat­terns, metal­lic art-deco swirls, and bright daisy splotch­es, too. Sil­hou­ettes span a sim­i­lar­ly eclec­tic breadth, with under­skirts and puffs of faux fur yield­ing vol­ume, coun­ter­bal­anced with slinky, fem­i­nine fits. Cast in all the colours of a rotat­ing kalei­do­scope, they issue a flam­boy­ant ‘fuck you’ to any attempts at oppres­sion.

To describe the rain­bow chintz on show as ‘print’ would, how­ev­er, be a mis­nomer. This sea­son, Ashish returns to sequins with renewed aplomb. Larg­er pail­lettes are lay­ered to mim­ic the dreamy shim­mer of hazy water­colour brush­strokes, while gran­u­lar sequins are fas­tid­i­ous­ly bead­ed to recre­ate and rein­ter­pret nos­tal­gic visu­als. The cho­sen mate­ri­al­i­ty serves as the lynch­pin for this ode to joy. “Using sequins has always been an act of rebel­lion,” says the design­er. “It’s a medi­um that peo­ple aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly very kind to, but there’s just some­thing so joy­ous about it.”

Del­i­cate­ly clumped on striped mini dress­es and mock neck evening gowns, they call a glim­mer­ing lurex knit to mind — in a red and black plaid effect, we have a dis­co-ready take on a macho-man’s lum­ber­jack shirt. This process of ele­vat­ing the iden­ti­fi­able and the mun­dane through such intri­cate hand­craft­ing speaks to the joy to be found in fan­ta­sy — in depart­ing hum­drum, quo­tid­i­an real­i­ty to inhab­it new, glitzi­er states of mind, if only for a brief peri­od of time.

Joy is found in glam­ourous pre­tence, in pick­ing out a char­ac­ter — a soci­ety lady on her way to a din­ner, per­haps, or her daugh­ter head­ing down­town — and liv­ing out that fleet­ing fan­ta­sy to its fullest. What Ashish offers is not a pre­scrip­tive trea­tise on what joy­ful dress­ing looks like. Instead, it’s an expan­sive, extro­vert­ed lex­i­con that allows you to artic­u­late what that means. This an invi­ta­tion to take respite from the storm out­side, to slip on your best dress and do just as you please. This escape may only last a moment, but please: enjoy it as if it were your last.

Mahoro Seward