The Lead Up with Creative Director, Priya Ahluwalia
The creative director and founder walks us through what a hectic week in the lead up to the brand’s AW23 Symphony collection looks like.
The moment Symphony began was serendipitous for Ahluwalia’s creative director and founder, Priya Ahluwalia. “The collection was started because I was thinking about my journey with music and figuring out what Ahluwalia’s sound was,” she says. Having spent extended periods of time working on curating shows for her eponymous label and also films, she realised how integral music had been to the composition of her identity, and therefore, the Ahluwalia label.
She recalls her Nigerian father presenting her with a Mobb Deep album at aged 5, and her Indian grandfather playing the tabla, a traditional Indian drum, whilst her mother’s love for soul music, r&b and hip-hop flooded her youth. It was these fond memories that spurred ideas on the ways in which music could be represented in the collection for AW23 that wasn’t just taking a surface level approach by looking at a musician’s style. It was pulling references from the design elements of instruments during visits at the Royal College of Music Museum, analysing anything from music posters to album covers, and even looking at live performances from Lauryn Hill - who’s Doo Wop (That Thing) features on the soundtrack for the collection.
The days that led up to Symphony were a flurry of notes - not quite of sheet music - but of finishing touches. With a stellar in-house team and having enlisted the help of Troy Casting for an incredible model lineup, it was no surprise that the final outcome was as beautiful as it is.
To let the audience see even further behind the scenes, Ahluwalia’s creative director provides details on what a week in the lead up to fashion week and in this case, Symphony looks like.
Monday, February 13th
10AM: To start the week, the focus is hair and makeup. Priya worked closely with renowned hair stylist Cyndia Harvey, coveted makeup artist Mata Marielle and influential manicurist Ama Quashie, whom she collaborates with regularly, to create the beauty looks for AW23.
Tuesday, February 14th
MIDDAY: With the addition of live musicians for this season’s show, Priya holds fittings with saxophonist Solariss, and jazz pianist Insxght. The team also utilises this time to do a check-in with Woodgrain Studio on the show’s soundtrack - the vibes are certainly pulsing only excitement lies ahead.
Wednesday, February 15th
10AM to 7PM: Forget the 9 to 5; now, the room’s are getting fuller and the people trickling in are increasing as casting and fitting days begin. Long-term friend and favoured casting director Troy Fearn spends the day with our founder and creative director alongside stylist Nell Kalonji for a full day of model castings. The models were paraded in full AW23 runway looks as the talented trio started to put together the puzzle pieces of Symphony.
Thursday, February 16th
10AM to 7PM: Yet another full day of casting and fittings galore - almost there.
Friday, February 17th
10AM: It’s the final day for fittings to confirm looks for the catwalk, and the trio are back at it again. It’s bittersweet; a joyous reflection on all they’ve been able to accomplish but also the co-sign of the collection over to an audience who will be reeling on it while Priya begins working on the next.
2PM: With show day tomorrow, the creative director takes a quick break from the fitting madness to rally the team to confirm the press release and final guest list with the PR team at Karla Otto UK.
8PM: By this time, the production team are getting checked in with CEBE studios at the show’s St John’s Smith Square venue.
9PM: The night ends on a high. A final music rehearsal with Solariss and Insxght to ensure all the technical necessities are secure and the musicians are feeling calm, cool and collected, as per.
“The night before the show, we had the first full (full) music rehearsal, when everyone was in the same room. I was able to speak to the Woodgrain team and Insxght and Solariss all at the same time. I walked in and they were playing and riffing, and the show was being set up by CEBE - our amazing production company - for the show for the next day, because we had a morning show. I couldn’t quite believe that I had started a business and achieved all of this - it was so emotional. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt immense pride - of myself, of everyone that was involved in the show, and it was really special. Those moments behind the scenes are really special,” says Priya Ahluwalia, creative director and founder of Ahluwalia.
Saturday, February 18th - SHOW DAY
10AM: It’s showtime and the team is working to the clock. As guests, press, family and friends trickle into their seats, the Ahluwalia family wait patiently ahead of their cue for the show’s start.
APPROX. 10.30AM: The show begins. Everyone is sat, a melody from the grand piano where Insxght is sat begins to treble through the Baroque concert hall, and the opening look prepares to walk down the runway.
“Standing on the stairs and watching the final looks go out, and doing final checks, is always a really special moment. And this time, I could see some of the reactions of the audience - that was really lovely. I feel like we really levelled up and created such a beautiful body of work, and I’m really proud of it.”
Ahluwalia presents Autumn Winter 2023 ‘Symphony collection’, connected by EON. Powered by Microsoft. The collection and the stories behind them are connected by EON's cutting-edge digital ID technology, and powered by Microsoft Azure. Creating an experience that transcends clothing.
These digital identifiers can be found on the garments above the care label and can be easily accessed through a smartphone or other devices to provide a wealth of data including the detailed information about the garment, materials used, care instructions along with exclusive content from the collection. Empowering our community to make more informed decisions and choosing products that align with their values for a deeper connection.
Discover the story and collaboration here