There’s A Reason Why Dua Lipa Chose Her Birthday Dress From This Designer

Supriya Lele is one of fashion's brightest new stars – but how is she navigating the design process during a pandemic?

dua lipa supriya lele

by Emma Sells |
Updated on

Supriya lele has spent much of lockdown getting reacquainted with her sewing skills; hunkered down in her London flat, she’s been listening to podcasts and meditatively sewing scrubs, volunteering for the Emergency Designer Fund, a group set up by London fashion stalwarts Bethany Williams, Holly Fulton, Phoebe English and Cozette McCreery to provide PPE for the NHS.

It’s not how the 32-year-old designer thought 2020 would pan out. Over the past three years she’s cemented her place as one of the capital’s rising stars, thanks to her knack for blending reimagined elements of traditional Indian dress with pared-back ’90s minimalism. She landed a coveted spot on Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East roster straight after graduating from her MA at the Royal College of Art before moving seamlessly into the NEWGEN line-up. And at the beginning of March, having just unveiled her A/W ’20 collection with a campaign shot in Jabalpur, the Indian region her father came from, she was announced as one of the eight finalists of this year’s prestigious LVMH Prize for Young Designers. She has also amassed an influential following – both Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa have recently worn Supriya Lele creations.

Now she’s navigating her eponymous label through the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis, trying to work out how to manufacture that collection while borders and factories remain closed, and muster the inspiration to dream up S/S ’21’s offering. Which is where the sewing comes in. ‘I’m really enjoying working with my hands as much as I can at home, which involved a lot of making pasta and sewing,’ she says. ‘It’s been such a strange time and it’s taken time for me to adjust, but it’s healing to be creative and I feel ready for that now.’

Supriya Lele in her studio
Supriya Lele in her studio ©Will Grundy

Born in Ipswich and raised in the West Midlands by style-conscious Indian immigrants – growing up, the family would watch The Clothes Show together – Lele uses her collections to riff on her dual heritage. ‘It’s an exploration of my identity and that comes from memories of my childhood, from speaking to my mum, from going over to India pretty much every year and visiting my family there,’ she says. ‘England and India are aesthetically very different and, especially when I was growing up, before we had iPhones and the internet, it was a whole other world to be dropped in there. Everything was so different – the smells, colours, textures, what people wore – and then coming back, landing in Heathrow and it being grey and miserable. The contrasts between the two places and the two worlds were always in my mind.’

Supriya Lele SS20, shot by Jamie Hawkesworth
Supriya Lele SS20, shot by Jamie Hawkesworth ©Jamie Hawkesworth

Lele has an enduring love for the ground-breaking collections of the likes of Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela, not just the clean silhouettes but the strong, sexually confident attitude of the models who stalked their runways. So, she puts a subversive, modern spin on sari-like draping, layers of transparent fabrics, madras prints and kaleidoscopic colours, adding black rubber, ruched seams and asymmetric hems. Her collections are an amplified version of her personal style; she originally set out to study architecture but came to realise she’d always had an interest in clothes and subcultures, from being an opinionated toddler to a metal-head teen.

Bella Hadid wearing Supriya Lele
Bella Hadid wearing Supriya Lele ©Getty Images

She’s staying positive right now, keeping in touch with London cohorts such as Asai and Richard Malone for support, looking forward to being able to visit her mum, who’s head of an NHS intensive care unit, and itching to get back into the studio. ‘As negative as the situation is, it can open up different ways of producing work,’ she says. ‘Maybe it’s about going back to your roots, back to the craft aspect of things, is it about keeping things small or making things yourself ? That’s the beauty of what we do, it can be quite humble in a way, and really beautiful. It’s very freeing in some respects.’


SHOP: The Best Pieces From Supriya Lele

Supriya Lele, Plaid Shirt, £385 at Browns1 of 7

Supriya Lele, Plaid Shirt, £385 at Browns

Supriya Lele, Satin Midi Dress, £299 at Farfetch2 of 7

Supriya Lele, Satin Midi Dress, £299 at Farfetch

Supriya Lele, Cross Print Leather Coat, £372 at Farfetch3 of 7

Supriya Lele, Cross Print Leather Coat, £372 at Farfetch

Supriya Lele, Check Print Dress, £334 at Farfetch4 of 7

Supriya Lele, Check Print Dress, £334 at Farfetch

Supriya Lele, Sash Wrap Top, £229.68 at Voostore5 of 7

Supriya Lele, Sash Wrap Top, £229.68 at Voostore

Supriya Lele, Waist Tie Midi Skirt, £405 at Browns6 of 7

Supriya Lele, Waist Tie Midi Skirt, £405 at Browns

Supriya Lele, Square Neck Dress, £387 at Farfetch7 of 7

Supriya Lele, Square Neck Dress, £387 at Farfetch

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