8fbd035081bd09934004bfc61d79c31c5d5d9ee4

Meet the Artist and Fashion Designer Making the Most of Outdated Makeup

Introduced to the fashion industry through various intensive internships at luxury labels, Anika Leila’s first impression of the industry, while impactful, wasn’t the best.

Given a firsthand glance into the toxic waste and textile pollution fashion can produce, the London-based talent was inspired to integrate sustainable practices into her self-eponymous brand. Relying on old and expired makeup, Anika first flexed her artistic abilities on paper, sketching silhouettes with expired eyeshadow palettes and eyeliner, and later, transitioning to fabric as a student at Central Saint Martins. While studying womenswear at the acclaimed art and design school, Anika molded the fearless mindset that provided her the courage to create her famed fantastical faces in 2020. 

“There were so many different types of people at CSM; it taught me not to care [about outside opinions,]” she shares. “I’ve always struggled with that, and my first-year teacher told me to stop caring about it. I remember [at the time] I was so scared to post on social media because of what other people would think, but as I got through my second year at CSM, I realized nobody care[d]. That’s when I started to post my personal work that had nothing to do with uni and my personal work would get so much more attention.”

The growing awareness around the 25-year-old’s artistry was just the beginning of her brand’s buzz. It was in 2020 that Anika dove deep into her heritage, pulling inspiration from her Punjabi-Indian identity to craft the eerie expressions — seen on canvas and her consciously crafted garments — which took social media by storm. Defined by their expressive emotions —often stoic, somber or even serendipitous —the beautifully bizarre faces serve as a self-portrait of the British-South Asian artist, not only acting as an authentic representation of her cultural roots but her raw emotions and experiences as well.

“[The faces] really reflect me as a person,” she says. “When I look at them, I see all the personal meaning behind them, and I see them as cute, real reflections of me. Someone else who doesn’t know me and doesn’t know my work might [not understand], but it comes like a diary for me to jot anything down based on all the things that I’ve gone through.”

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green <a href=central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/cZjp7.P32g57mgvEjUjjCA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE0NDA-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/hypebae_340/a13c34de2f0684300e67f0d00944b2bb”/>

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian <a href=punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/0FHWGJHkxvldSQrbOnQ2eQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE0NDE-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/hypebae_340/311ce7d0cc8b4c90bc8d43c4f1b9aeef”/>

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

Six years after starting her studies at Central Saint Martins and applying eco-conscious elements to her creative craft, the CSM grad continues to create draped dresses and skirts, bandeau tops and one-of-one artwork with out-of-date makeup.

Below, we speak with Anika Leila on how her upbringing introduced her to upcycling and how she navigates the nuances of being a freelancer in 2024.

What inspired you to incorporate the use of old and expired makeup in your design and creative process?

It’s been a long journey. If I can pinpoint it to just one thing that really inspired me, it [comes down] to how I’ve been raised. My parents have always pushed the idea of upcycling and being as sustainable as possible and reusing where we can. My parents have achieved a lot but they’ve also not had a lot. So, I think they’ve always held onto that concept of reusing, taking care of what we have, using what we have and not having a lot of clutter. With fashion, I always knew I wanted to study it and be creative but I wanted to make sure that I was doing it in a way that didn’t harm the environment in the ways that I had seen it does. 

Around 2015 or 2016, there was a massive makeup hype on YouTube and people were gifting me loads of makeup because that’s what they thought a teenage girl would like. I didn’t really wear colorful makeup, so it sat in my room collecting dust. Then I thought, this is either going in the bin or I’m going to use it for something else. That’s when I started practicing initially on paper, used that for my portfolio to get into CSM and then I gradually moved onto fabric. 

Talk to us about your creative approach to crafting your one-of-one pieces. What does the step-by-step process look like?

It’s all very much freestyle and improvisation in a way. Obviously, I do have to incorporate pattern cutting, draping and traditional techniques that would help me create a normal garment. However, when it comes to making a dress one-of-one and as unique as possible, it’s all very much improvised and I really cater to my own needs and style so that I know it’s very unique to me. I don’t necessarily like to create by putting pressure on myself and wondering if someone’s going to buy it. There’s a lot of freedom in the creation that I do and a lot of people have asked me why I haven’t switched up my style or have told me to do menswear. But, I’m not at a point where I’m ready to put something out that isn’t 100% me. It’s very improvised, very free-flowing and I just like to make sure it’s very much me.

You document your design process online, on TikTok and Instagram Reels, leading to viral videos and increased admirers of your work. What role does social media play in your work?

I think I like to create just to create rather than creating with the expectation that it’ll get so much attention on social media. It’s unhealthy to think otherwise. It can be a bit destroying to spend six weeks putting your heart into a project and it doesn’t get the audience or reception you’d want it to get on social media but it just teaches you that sometimes the things that you don’t put a lot of effort into can get all the attention in the world. Sometimes the things you put loads of effort into can get all the attention of the world. It literally doesn’t matter, it’s just important to create for the sake of creating. 

We’ve seen online the different ways in which people have described faces you create, from spooky and stunning to otherworldly. What words would you use to describe your design aesthetic?

This is a good question now as ever because some people think they’re literally hideous but I think they’re really cute. I’m very open to how people see them but I don’t think they’re scary. It’s funny to see how people interpret and describe them. They use such funny words sometimes. 

How has your life as an artist and designer changed since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2022? 

I don’t know what I would classify myself as – a designer or creative. [Regardless,] it’s been very experimental and very fulfilling since I’ve left uni because I’ve been freelancing and self-employed, doing graphic design, illustration, artwork and other creative projects with really cool creatives. I’ve also been working on my own stuff which has been good having the time to do both. I feel really blessed because I have the option to pursue a few different things now but at the same time, there’s [almost] too many options so I don’t know what [exactly] to pursue. 

I feel I’ve almost trapped myself under the bus a little bit because I don’t have as much experience in one thing as I do in another because I’ve been focused on so many different things. Ever since I’ve turned 25, I’ve [asked myself] “what is going on?” I don’t really know. It’s been such an experimental, fun time. I would say the future is very exciting but very unknown at the moment especially because I chose the freelance, self-employed, self-discovery route straight out of uni. I don’t know many other people that have done that so sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have anyone I can relate to which makes me feel very alone in all this. I can’t help but compare myself to people in my life that went down a more traditional career path but I also don’t think I’d be happy doing anything else.

Along with your time at Central Saint Martins, what other moments in your life were monumental in you becoming a designer? During these significant moments, was there an influential individual that impacted your life and career path?

I grew up alongside my grandma, she raised us for a few summers when we were younger and she was a massive influence in terms of sewing. We’ve always handmade things in a traditional way whether that be clothes, curtains or just anything, it’s something that’s part of our [Punjabi-Indian] culture as well. It’s quite common to make things by hand as much as possible and I grew up watching her do that. I wanted to know how she did it and now I work a lot with hand sewing. 

[In terms of a monumental moment,] there’s been a few times I’ve made something and I’m like “God, this is so, so cool.” The first ever top I made, I sold it for 15 pounds on Depop because I had no idea anyone would ever be interested in my work and had very little knowledge of selling online.I was so young and so 15 pounds felt like a lot of money. It was one of those moments where I realized [designing] could really be something. I was mesmerized by it all. I never pictured myself selling dresses or tops made by me in my studio. It’s also crazy because that customer wasn’t from the UK, a lot of my customers are based in the U.S. 

 

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british <a href=south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/cwoysCY6iBM_r2dihnNLrw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE0NDE-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/hypebae_340/3271ed125d4b5b4252634410c03ed680″/>

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

anika leila sustainability upcycling fashion upcycled bandeau tops dresses prints fabric eco-conscious green central saint martins csm london brand british south asian punjabi indian talent artist fashion designer makeup expired old 2024 earth month

Speaking of the U.K., in what ways did your upbringing in London influence your sense of style and creative expression? 

Growing up in London, I remember having a great childhood and I really experienced every part of London. My mum used to take us on the tube everywhere, buses everywhere and we just saw every single part of London which I’m super grateful for. I think [I benefitted] being in such a diverse, experimental [city]. It was an always changing type of place. I was born and bred here and I think it pushed me to do my own experimental research and be more experimental with my personal work. It gave me the confidence to not care what people think because I’m in London not in a small town where everyone’s going to judge me. It really contributed to my confidence. 

What’s next in store for Anika Leila? What should your following expect from you in the future?

There’s so much that could happen but I want to experiment and grow. I want to fulfill all of my creative desires and put a lot more work out there and be confident in doing that. I want to engage in a lot more personal research and teach myself cool things that are going to inspire my work. I want to keep evolving as a creative and as a person as well. My work has helped a lot with my personal development, which is quite crazy. I feel like a completely different person to who I was even six weeks ago.

Related Posts