If you haven't heard – and if you haven't, you should first be asking where have you been the last month – Gucci have opted to leave the traditional fashion week schedule, and to embark on a digital week-long festival, showcasing films created by Alessandro Michele as well as a handful of young designers that have been chosen by the Creative Director himself.

Having officially opened yesterday, the festival marks a new direction for the Italian fashion house; one that favours collaboration over competition. And we couldn't be more excited to see one of our London-based designers, Priya Ahluwalia of her eponymous label, to be on the fixture.

Helmed in the big smoke, Ahluwalia explores the designer's Indian-Nigerian heritage whilst using upcycled and deadstock fabrics. Having cemented her name on the London Fashion Week Mens schedule, she opens this digital one with her film, Joy. Made with Director, Samona Olanipekun, the documentary-cum-fashion film explores the ‘everyday beauty and strength of the Black existence’ through the lens of Afro-Caribbean rituals. Watch the film above, and to learn more about the project, the new collection and how they converse with each other – each piece of the clothing the cast wears has been customised with graphics inspired by sentimental things in the their lives – we asked the lady herself to tell all.

What was the inspiration for this film?
I have always thoroughly researched periods of Black liberation and those individuals who seeked to gain it. I have so many books in my studio and there is a certain selection that I go back to all the time. One of them is about Black teenagers in the 70's and 80's and I started to wonder what they were up to now, and how the families of people that were integral to the UK Black civil rights movement are doing now. That's how I started to think about this multigenerational cast and when I started talking to Samona about it, we decided we wanted to celebrate how amazing Black culture is and how we are allowed to express it because of the people who have fought hard before us. 

What was it about the cast of people in this film that made you want to feature them? Why do you think they embody your brand?
The film was a real personal journey of discovery for me, so some of the cast were chosen because I know and care for them personally. We wanted to have a cast that was totally multifaceted. I wanted to show a myriad of people from across the diaspora – different ages, different origins – and highlight how unique and special they are. We worked with Troy Casting to build a cast that represented different areas of Afro-Caribbean rituals. Some were chosen because of their connection to the Mangrove Nine and subsequent struggles, some were chosen as they symbolised strength such as the athletes, or some were chosen to show family unity and love.

What was it you wanted to explore about Afro-Caribbean rituals and Black culture in this film?
Afro-Caribbean rituals are not generally celebrated in the western world, Black people are often required to dim their shine due to ideas of white supremacy that permeate society without many people even realising it.  With Joy, we wanted to highlight that there are many beautiful and truly special ways in which we celebrate and honour our heritage, even when we are told we shouldn't. All these rituals are based in love and togetherness and I wanted to show that. 


We love how personal each piece of clothing is to each cast member, why did you want to do this?
I have done a few projects now that have involved communities, rather than models and I am always trying to think of how to do it sensitively and with respect so that the cast can enjoy the experience and be proud of it. I wanted to do something that would show the cast members that we were dedicated to authentically showing them in the best light and with respect to their individual contributions on such an emotional topic. I also think it really helped me get to know all of the cast members on a much deeper level and that fed into the creative on the whole film, whether it was choices of how they were filmed or choices about location and set. There were so many small personalisations that weren't necessarily visible in the film but it would have been known to each cast member whilst it was their time to shine. 

You're renowned for up-cycling materials for your collections, was that the case for this collection and if so, did you approach the process any differently?
Yes, we did a lot of reworking materials in this collection. For example, the guys doing calisthenics, The Frameshakers, were all wearing running shorts made from repurposed sportswear. We also sourced a lot of things locally for the film, going to Tooting and Shepherds Bush markets. 

Watch Joy and more films at guccifest.com.

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