Hot off the heels of her first runway collection, Anika Leela, 23, a British South Asian designer, is making waves at Central Saint Martins, London’s well-known fashion college. Her collection “Anika’s Odyssey” from her eponymous label is inspired by a childhood pastime.
The game centers around a young girl interacting with various animals and monsters while searching for her lost toy rabbit. The faces of the monsters lived with Leela and inspired the aesthetic for her line. “Monsters is a continuation of a long-term fascination I’ve had with drawing the weird and wonderful since childhood,” she tells PopSugar on the set of a photoshoot. “I used elements of this childhood play to contextualize my personal life, narcissism, and how I physically represent different forms of manipulation.”
“The moment I started looking at my personal life and using it for inspiration was when I started thinking [my brand] can go anywhere.”
Leela has already been tapped to create several custom pieces for a major celebrity (she won’t reveal who yet). And while this may be the result of an inflated ego or sense of entitlement, he is remarkably humble, calm despite the intense demands of admission to a prestigious university.
While at CSM, Leela’s small-batch tops, featuring her signature monster faces, followed Twitter And Instagram – especially during the lockdown.
Growing up, she watched her grandmother make clothes by hand according to Punjabi-Indian cultural norms. Today, that habit shapes its brand ethos; This is part of the reason that Leela doesn’t rely on machinery to create prints, as other fashion brands do. Instead, he received a call at 2am from a local family collecting textile waste at the famous South Asian migrant center in Southall, West London, where he made his first selection of high-quality fabrics.
Next, Leela hand-stitches and hand-prints each garment. She sources secondhand and expired makeup products to create many of the prints, which can take up to five years to develop. Its sealant prevents makeup from staining clothing.
“I get a lot of donations from my Instagram and Twitter followers, friends, stylists and even their clients who get a lot of makeup that would go to waste,” says Leila. “I’ll collect that makeup, figure out what color I can use, what shade of foundation I have and what mascara I have—because they’re all different formulas and consistency. Then, I’ll paint a print by hand. Or directly. on a dress.”
His innovative approach to design and fabrication makes him stand out in a crowded industry. Leela says that she was able to create a unique path for herself after she started taking inspiration from her personal life. “My [CSM] Tutors know I have a habit of projecting on other people’s stories rather than focusing on my own. I think it’s a defense mechanism I grew up with, but I don’t think it’s helpful. The moment I started looking at my personal life and using it for inspiration was when I started thinking [my brand] can go anywhere.”
Go ahead, grab the complete “Anika’s Odyssey” collection.