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Verve People
June 24, 2017

Gaurav Gupta: A Designer Who Is Larger Than His Fashion

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

On attempting to challenge and subvert traditional conventions

A few weeks ago, we made our way to Gaurav Gupta’s Kala Ghoda store for a casual discussion on the aesthetic of his structured gowns and how he envisions regular women in them. What we soon realised is that Gupta is all about the ‘show, don’t tell’ attitude as he ushers us into his haven where a soirée organised by the Ladies’ Wing of IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry is in full swing. A group of senior women dressed to the nines in his couture gowns and saris, sashay around the store, putting on a show for their peers. This, he tells us, is who he designs for — every woman, who believes she can carry off his designs with élan. We then proceed to explore the lesser known side of this avant-garde designer who has a vision for change in the industry and rallies for various social causes.

Discovering design
“My father had his business in the steel industry and that was definitely off the table for me. I knew I wouldn’t be happy there, no matter how hard I tired because there was no outlet for my creativity. I remember getting my report card home once and my dad being livid because I had scored abysmally in all subjects, except art. That was when we both knew I was going to have a career in either art or fashion. Now, I see design in everything — the shape of someone’s hand, the wave of their hair, even the way in which they seat themselves.”

Industry speak
“We’re making great strides when it comes to innovation and promoting our crafts. Ujjwal Dubey, for example, is amongst the most talented menswear designers today. That being said, the industry needs to take a hard look at its professionalism. We also need to evolve at a faster rate to keep pace with international standards. Infrastructurally too, Indian fashion is far behind in comparison to other countries — Louis Vuitton has 200 stores in China as compared to four in India.”

Social conscientiousness
“I consider myself quite the activist — right from protesting against U.K. going to war with Iraq or rallying at the Nirbhaya marches. I’m also heavily involved with the LGTBQ community in India and you’ll find me at many of their rallies. There are such burning societal problems today and we need everyone to be out there, helping in any way they can. I’ve actively taken two causes on board, keeping in mind my clout as a designer. The first one is anti-pollution. It is possible to purify water, which is a necessity, but it is impossible to clean all of the air around you, which is also indispensable to life. This is why I designed the anti-pollution mask along with the ‘having a bad air day’ slogan tees. The second cause that is very close to my heart is feminism and women’s rights. You may have seen the feminist shirts that we launched at one of our shows and thought to yourself that it’s merely a fashion statement. But for me, it means a girl from a small town surfing the internet on her phone and coming across an image of Alia wearing a t-shirt that says ‘F for Feminist’. Her curiosity piques as she asks herself ‘what is feminism?’ So instead of just consuming Bollywood and fashion on her phone, she begins to consume a whole new concept.”

Mark of maturity
“When I had just started out, I was eclectic to an extreme. In terms of fashion, I’ve become simpler over the years, although my couture is still quite complicated. I’ve worked hard to reach this sense of zen in my head, where I’m happy with the things I create. It gives me immense peace to see a Gaurav Gupta element in every woman. Her alter ego is curious, explorative, self-aware, philosophical and progressive. She could be traditional too but has a bit of an edge to her. At the end of the day, it’s all about attaining balance, which I gain through my work.”

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