Young Love in Small Town India

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India-born, London-based designer Ashish pays homage to young love in the small towns of India with his latest photo series, a collaboration with art director and stylist Kshitij Kankaria, first published in i-D.

The duo met at Ashish’s studio in London a few months ago and bonded over their own small town beginnings. “When we first met, we talked about where we were from,” Kshitij tells LOVER, “we discussed how he had done a lot of work with chequered shirts and these very Himachali sweaters - but his had sequins. Ashish’s aesthetic is extravagant, very eye-catching but his approach is nostalgic, inspired by the way Indians wear certain things, but he’s doing it for international markets.

My work is also heavily nostalgic but in a very different way, more around storytelling but I like that people from small towns don’t think too much, they just have a sense of colour that they mix together. And coming from a small town like Indore, that’s more relatable to me than anything else.

We worked together choosing and adding pieces and changing silhouettes (like a top to a short kurti) to give each character that we created from our cast a look - like the sisters in matching outfits, or the young couple who might have an arranged marriage who are really shy around each other.”

The end result is an evocative ode to small town living and loving, a theme close to both their hearts, lensed by photographer Ashish Shah that reflect the duo’s experience of India, “rather than a touristic idea of it”.

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Photography - Ashish Shah
Styling and creative direction - Kshitij Kankaria
Photography assistance - Abhishek Rao
Styling assistance - Ruhani Singh and Rebecca Anderson
Hair and make-up - Clover Wootton
Hair and make-up assistance - Anisa Oberoi and Tarsha Khorana
Models - Pooja Shree, Syed Fazal, Ayesha Siddiqui,Rashmi Zurail Mann, Vignesh Kumar, Dwij Parikh, Baji Rao Birajdar

See more of the series on i-D and on instagram at @ashish, @kshitijkankaria and @ashishnshah.