Ayush is a master stylist of miscellaneous materials, redefining the meaning of fashion in an ever-changing modern world. His eye-popping creations are an alluring mix of Eastern and Western influences and beyond, and make a bold and radiant statement. The expressive fashion designer might combine Indian floral trends with timeless nautical stripes, evoke an astrological star sign, such as Pisces, through a bold animal print on a pale pastel background, or introduce a denim under garment in lieu of a customary cotton blouse to a sari. “I certainly have an eclectic signature,” he told us. “One morning I might use one type of fabric while it will be an entirely different on another. A single garment may contain four different materials, twenty colours and three textures. This is because I will make what I’m feeling– I don’t adhere to the rule book, ignoring seasonal fashion and stipulated dos and don’ts, focussing instead on telling a personal story.”
Creativity is central to Ayush’s brand who explicitly denounces the typically commercial dictates of his industry: “I see myself as separate from the traditional fraternity of fashion. I do what I want, and don’t chase sales as it’s crippling to the true, imaginative process. My pieces are works of art for me, where clothes are the canvas. I will take time to complete a certain design, unruffled by external deadlines or the pressure of making a profit. It means the customer gets a unique, editorial piece. There are a limited number of designs.”
Indeed, operating solely via social media without even an official website, Ayush’ first design was bought by a customer in Germany after she happened to spot his vibrant work online. Now, less than a decade on, and the Glasgow-based designer has a thriving progressive brand, which is as collaborative as it is authentic. “I will showcase my clothes on platforms such as Instagram, and let people approach me. I love talking to clients individually and hearing about what excites them, and draws them to a particular garment. The messages have just been increasing over time. I believe in a flowing creative energy that reaches out to others and moves them, which in turn, creates a mutually affirming universe.”
No surprise then that Ayush’s fusion fashions have gone viral, particularly because of his celebratory use of dark-skinned models. This seems to enhance his embrace of classic Indian garments, such as saris and salwar kameez. However, quite fittingly, his reasoning goes deeper than any superficial indicator of identity to celebration of the spirit. “I don’t purposely choose to feature women with a certain look,” he explained. “In the same way I don’t consciously feature traditional clothes. Rather, I want women who wear my clothes to feel good. Style should look inwards not outwards: it should feed the soul. I don’t screen my models, and will work with women of all shapes and sizes, colour, sexual orientations and ages to bring the best out in them. Similarly, I organically draw from the beautiful parts of my culture. Old Indian dress has such a romance about it, how could I not entertain it?”
Indeed, Ayush’s professional portfolio emerges at once an arresting photographic exhibit of the nuanced feminine personality, melding the high concept of the arts world with the dazzling aesthetics of fashion. The mindful maverick works empathetically with his models to encourage them to unapologetically express themselves, making them an integral part of his design process too. “I don’t enjoy the overly posed pictures that mark the generic perfection of the fashion industry. I want women to feel uninhibited and powerful in my jewellery and garments because without the wearer, my work would just be fabrics. There’s got to be energy. I ask for a particular mood, whatever that model might immediately relate to.” As can be gleaned from Ayush’s images, this can be melancholia, or the anticipation just before an elegant evening out. “Ultimately, the picture needs to be honest. That’s when the product appears strongest. This is perhaps a lesson I’ve learned from styling my mother and sister when I was younger. They are both such real people.”
The rebellious basis of Ayush’s work is interestingly reminiscent of fellow humanistic artist, Cindy Sherman, who was recently showcased at the National Portrait Gallery. She is known for her playful focus on the strange yet fascinating manipulation of physical appearance which is propagated by mainstream media. However, where Sherman will regularly change the photographic context to highlight the enduring impersonal presence of conventional beauty, Ayush brings the focus to inner life to conversely champion beauty as an emotional resource that can be, beautifully, available to all.
He commented on the fashion industry’s repressive pushing of exclusive trends on the public at the expense of women’s happiness: “I have never worked to fill a gap in the market, and hate the way certain brands prey on the insecurities of women to get them to buy. It’s awful and promotes a shallow, lifeless narrative that is stifling. Furthermore, it’s fake– images are retouched over and over again to create an absolutely impossible standard. That’s another reason I’m committed to authenticity through my brand.” Ayush, it seems, seeks to help women live as wholes, engaging with the outer touches to help find and elevate themselves.
And so, at the finest fore of an industry that epitomises the mechanical and seemingly insurmountable demands of an authoritarian system, Ayush’s imitable fashions represent a time when power is being gradually redistributed among the people. His digital brand not so much deconstructs as proactively reinvents fashion, preserving the fundamental colour, while washing out the corruption. The designer not only shines a light on the delicate depth of individuality, but also the multi-layered experience of life that crucially sustains it. Ultimately, Ayush’s collection emanates a compelling, visceral call to social empowerment.
Tell us more about cultural influence growing up?
I never had formal training so my interest has come from early life. I’d help my mum around the house because she suffered a very debilitating condition. I’d help her get dressed and get about. I grew familiar with the feel of certain fabrics and the practicality of design. I have style nostalgically in my being in that sense.
You are in marketing full-time as a day job. How has that helped inform your personal brand?
The key to good marketing is one in the same as having an authentic brand: have an emotive story that the right people can relate to at the right time. My designs carry my personal pain and joy. I don’t censor my feelings which goes against formal marketing teaching: I will share my feelings on social media – it gives my brand the immediacy and courage that defines it. In relation to the industry, I see myself as a mad, high guy going somewhere else, but being happy about it!
Finally, what are your favourite crafts?
I work with a variety of techniques across India, but three favourites are: Kulamkari; a beautiful hand painted technique I use; using Kanchipuram silks, which gives a luxurious feel; Banarasi-produced silk where minute detail is brought skilfully by the workers to life.
'Style should look inwards not outwards:
it should feed the soul’