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The British Designer Paying Tribute to the Immigrant Experience

  • August 10, 2020

This approach accounts for one of her signatures — patchwork, which in Ahluwalia’s hands feels in conversation with West African stitched textiles, and also speaks to her own narrative: “My life is a patchwork of cultures and heritage, a mishmash and remix of traditional ideas of being Indian or British or Nigerian,” she says. In June of this year, Ahluwalia published “Jalebi,” a dreamlike book that weaves writings on her experience as a mixed-heritage woman with old family snapshots and portraits (photographed by Laurence Ellis) of residents in Southall, a major Punjabi community in London, which she grew up visiting. At every stage of the process, then, Ahluwalia is thinking about the life span of materials, which pass through makers and wearers and across time, and about human lives, too. She knows that as a designer she is building her own sort of world, and why make it anything but a rich, varied and authentic one? Her compassionate, thoughtful creations have earned her accolades from the establishment — this summer, she was one of the recipients of the LVMH Prize — but she maintains a healthy sense of irreverence. “Basically, I want to do whatever I want,” says Ahluwalia, who hinted that her next move might have to do with women’s wear, interior design pieces, youth education initiatives, book projects or some combination thereof. “I feel like now is a time when people are listening to what I have to say.”

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