Immediately after her first collection hit the catwalk, Anika Leila, 23, a British South Asian designer, is making waves at London’s famed fashion college, Central Saint Martins. Her “Anika’s Odyssey” collection from her eponymous brand is inspired by a childhood pastime.
The game centers on a young girl interacting with a variety of creatures and monsters while searching for her lost toy bunny. The faces of the monsters stayed with Leila and inspired her line’s aesthetic. “Monsters are a continuation of a long-standing fascination I have with weird and wonderful drawings from my childhood,” she told POPSUGAR while filming a photoshoot. “I used elements from this childhood game to contextualize my personal life, my narcissism, and how I could physically represent various forms of manipulation.”
“The moment I started looking at my personal life and drawing inspiration from it was when I started thinking [my brand] could go somewhere.”
Leila has already been tapped to create several custom pieces for a big celebrity (she won’t divulge who just yet). And while that may result in an inflated ego or a sense of entitlement, she is remarkably humble, exuding a calm despite the grueling demands of attending a prestigious university.
While at CSM, Leila’s small-batch tops, complete with her signature monster faces, drew a following on Twitter and Instagram – especially during lockdown.
Growing up, she saw her grandmother making clothes by hand, as is customary in Punjabi-Indian culture. Today, this practice shapes the philosophy of his brand; it’s part of the reason why Leila doesn’t depend on machines to create prints, like several other fashion brands do. Instead, she receives calls at 2am from a local family collecting textile waste at the notorious South Asian immigration hub of Southall, west London, where she gets first choice high quality fabrics.
Then, Leila sews and prints each garment by hand. She sources used and expired makeup products to create many prints, which can take up to five years to develop. Its sealant prevents makeup from staining clothes.
“I’ve had so many donations from my Instagram and Twitter followers, friends, stylists, and even their clients who receive tons of makeup that will go to waste,” Leila says. “I’m going to put this makeup together, explore what colors I can use, what shades of foundation I have, and what types of mascara I have — because they’re all different formulas and consistencies. Then I’ll paint either by hand as a print or directly on a garment.”
Its inventive approach to design and manufacturing sets it apart in a crowded industry. Leila says she was able to forge a unique path once she started drawing inspiration from her personal life. “My [CSM] the tutors know that I tend to make projects on other people’s stories rather than focusing on my own. I think it’s a defense mechanism I grew up in, but I don’t think it’s helpful. The moment I started looking at my personal life and drawing inspiration from it was when I started thinking [my brand] could go somewhere.”
Discover the complete “Anika’s Odyssey” collection.