The London-based designer builds a 360° world around her SS24 collection, with the help of off-cut leather from the renowned heritage car company. We spoke with the designer all about it…
Supriya Lele, the designer behind her London-based namesake brand, has been taking the fashion industry by storm with her carefully considered collections and reflections on growing up as a British woman born to Indian immigrant parents. Looking to her own familial history as well as the broader historical contexts of her two cultures, she merges nostalgia with modernity for a refreshing, timeless elegance that radiates through every piece. This season sees Supriya Lele’s first standalone presentation, and is a marker of how powerfully she has grown from an emerging designer to one with a longevity as strong as her pieces themselves. Modernising personal references such as saris worn by women in her own family, she brings history into the contemporary age and thus creates designs that are as intimate as they are universally adored.
Part of her SS24 collection is a collaboration with Bentley Motors, who supported the LVMH Prize finalist through the sponsorship of her presentation. Lele designed a structural leather jacket inspired by the heritage car brand’s design principles and made from off-cut materials she selected on a visit to the Bentley factory in Crewe.
Speaking with the designer over Zoom a few days before her SS24 show, I had the pleasure of learning about her collaboration with Bentley, hearing about the factory tour and skins selection process, discussing the importance of tapping into other industries to create a comprehensive world surrounding a fashion collection, and — perhaps most notably — saying hi to her dog (who might just be Lele’s biggest supporter and #1 fan).
Upon first discussing a potential partnership with the heritage car company, which might sound like an unusual pairing on the surface, Lele was ecstatic. In fact, she felt it was a really natural collaboration. “When you’re building something, you’re thinking about an entire world, or an entire vision of a woman. You’re thinking about all sorts of things, from architecture to cars to furniture. It’s not necessarily just fashion related,” she explains. “Because I often find inspiration in different tangents, for me, it didn’t feel like an unusual partnership. It felt like a promising one.”
It is easy to see the inspiration Lele gained from her exclusive factory visit, which the designer tells me showed her the impact of Bentley’s design principles and detail-oriented craftsmanship. “To be honest, I was really, really geeking out.” She laughs. “We had a full tour of the factory. Everything is made by hand, which completely surprised me. They have these incredible sections within the factory where there’s people hand sewing all the interiors and there’s a woman who’s been doing this specific type of cross stitch on the seats for over 25 years. The attention to detail is just phenomenal. I mean, there is a part in the spray painting area where they have different lights to reflect different parts of the world so that you can see what the colour looks like in different places.”
There are more similarities between Bentley and Supriya Lele than first meets the eye. An acute attention to detail and timeless longevity run through the ethos of both brands, from the specificities in regards to colour and finish to the care that is put into every piece to ensure a highest level of quality craftsmanship. There is also the shared value of heritage that really epitomises both brands. While for Bentley, this shines through their rich history as a company, for Supriya Lele it is in the nuanced ways she approaches her own heritage through her work. “I felt like there were similarities between the two of us that goes beyond the product that we’re creating,” Lele tells me.
“Bentley adheres to rigorous design principles in order to uphold their signature values, not only from a design and aesthetic point of view, but right down into the ongoing developments of their cars,” she continues. “They create timeless, iconic cars. What is really key for me is the exploration of my heritage within my work, and also the rigorous design principles that I adhere to, constantly refining and tweaking signatures to create something that feels new. I’m not saying that my brand is of [Bentley’s] status yet, but what is really important to me as a designer is to not be trend led. I like to create work that is beautiful and timeless, though also modern. It’s moving forward, but it’s not trend-focused.”
Lele’s collections strike the perfect balance between classic elegance and contemporary relevance — a difficult feat that the designer somehow makes look effortless. Her ability to bring the past and the present together in a way that feels fresh and intriguing stems from her vast creativity, emotion-led design, and lack of trend-conscious research. “I don’t look at [today’s] clothing as a reference point to design from,” she explains. “I guess that’s why there’s a kind of classicness to my work. I’m looking at classic references or historical things or nostalgic moments to lead my thinking. And a lot of my design is based on mood, or an idea. There’s a contemporary eye to it, because obviously I’m living in the now, but it’s about taking things that are historical and making them feel cool and modern, making them feel dynamic. I think that’s what my whole ethos is about. It has been taking traditional tropes of my heritage and subverting them into something that feels modern and elevated.”
For the SS24 collection, she expands on this ethos while exploring new fabrications and detailing — such as Bentley’s interior leather. Working with the structural leather in a powder blue colour, Lele created a corseted bra and jacket that add an intriguing new dimension to her collection. “When I found [the blue colour] in the factory, it was an actual perfect match with one of the colours within my collection already. So we looked at that and thought, ‘okay, how do we bring this into the collection as it stands while being sensitive to the material and the cut?’” Continuing to master her design aesthetic and point of view, she takes “a step forward” with every collection, as she says.
Always expanding yet remaining true to her core, Supriya Lele has built her brand to last — just like Bentley.