The face isn't just a fundamental aspect of our identity, it's also primary vehicle for human expression, emotion, and character telling a story, which is why it has been a popular subject in the history of art and in recent times, photography. As such, its depiction also becomes a language between the artist and their work depict as an indicator of their style. For designer Anika Leila, this concept serves as a springboard for her unconventional and eerie creations.
A Central Saint Martins graduate and a proud Londoner, Anika Leila's design process is deeply rooted in her upbringing, where the handcrafted garments of her Punjabi-Indian grandmother left an indelible mark. Rejecting the reliance on machinery for print creation, she instead engages in a meticulous selection of premium fabrics, often obtained from a local family collecting textile waste in Southall, West London. Embracing a hands-on approach, Leila personally hand-sews and hand-prints each garment, incorporating unconventional materials such as expired makeup to develop her distinctive prints, a technique that can take several years to perfect secured on the fabric with a non-toxic sealant she came up with herself. Her visionary use of atypical components extends to her emblematic facial designs, characterized by 3D sculpted pieces meticulously shaped from clay, showcasing striking features like gapped teeth and bulging eyes.
Inspired by a childhood pastime, Anika Leila's eponymous collection derives its name from a game where she embarked on an Odyssey-like quest to retrieve her cherished toy bunny, encountering a slew of menacing creatures along the way. Nostalgically referencing these fantastical monsters, Leila delves into the depths of her inner child, translating her vivid imagination into a striking array of apparel. "The monsters are a continuation of a long-term fascination I have with weird and wonderful drawings from when I was little. I used elements of this childhood game to contextualize my personal life, narcissism, and how I could physically represent various forms of manipulation," She tells POPSUGAR.
Her avant-garde technique incorporates unconventional materials, including expired makeup sourced from generous donations by her social media following, acquaintances, and local charities. This makeup finds new life as Leila's medium, painstakingly applied to fabric, resulting in ethereal prints that mirror the tones and textures of the human countenance. Mouths agape, eyes closed, proportions askew — her designs teeter on the edge of the human form, evoking an unsettling, unearthly allure.
Amidst the maelstrom of the fashion world, Anika Leila's label serves as a testament to the power of introspection and personal narrative, reflecting a young designer's bold foray into uncharted artistic territories. With her idiosyncratic amalgamation of nostalgia, sustainability, and unorthodox materialization, Anika Leila is poised to carve a unique, indelible legacy within the realm of avant-garde design.