HomeLifestyleI am a sophisticated hippie, says Gaurav Gupta - UnlistedNews

I am a sophisticated hippie, says Gaurav Gupta – UnlistedNews

Gaurav Gupta, who will show part of his Paris line at India Couture Week, talks about art in the fashion business



In a career spanning 18 years, Gaurav Gupta has broken the rules. At a time when designers offered traditional takes on the lehnga choli, he offered sculpted dresses. Gupta, who studied at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi and Central Saint Martins in London, now has five stores, two in Delhi, one in Mumbai, one in Kolkata and one in Hyderabad, retailing at multi-designer Neiman Marcus in the US and online luxury retailer Moda Operandi.

Her fashion remains avant-garde, borrowing abstract patterns from nature and using traditional embroidery techniques such as zardozi, nakshi and dabka. Even the Hiranyagarbha, which she presented as part of Paris Haute Couture Week on July 6, his second showcase in the French city; the first was earlier this year, it was full of garments that had architectural ruffles. He will be bringing part of the collection to India and adding new pieces for his Indian Couture Week showcase on July 27 in Delhi. There will be more than 30 pieces including concept sarees, lehngas, dresses, pantsuits and jackets.

Also Read: 8 Gaurav Gupta Looks From Paris Haute Couture Week

Gaurav Gupta during his Fall/Winter 2023/2024 Women’s Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris on July 6.
(AFP)

In an interview, Gupta tells Lounge about learnings from Paris Haute Couture Week, the business of fashion, and being a “sophisticated hippie.” Edited excerpts:

How was the Paris experience?

I’ve wanted this for the past 25 years. I remember helping designer Hussein Chalayan backstage during Paris Fashion Week… or watching Issey Miyake during Paris Fashion Week while studying at Central Saint Martins. I understand the cultural and historical significance of presenting in Paris. Sometimes I feel a bit out of place here (in India). When I started, a lot of people made lehnga and sari. Not many actually spoke the language I was experimentally speaking. No one challenged the status quo. Manish Arora, yes, but he was among the exceptions. I’m trying to do that myself.

India has given me a lot. It gave me a foundation where I could grow, as a brand and as a person. I started with two people in a flat in South Delhi, which was later sealed off. Now, I have 500 people working with me. I am also making sarees and lehngas now but in a different language. I’m trying to build a business brand that is also conceptual. The Indian fashion landscape is a bit limited; it is still not very “global cosmopolitan”.

What makes you think that?

People are losing their authenticity just (to follow) some trend. When I’m working with people there (in Paris), the intention is towards art, towards a cultural conversation. It’s not like, “Let’s show these clothes and sell them.” It’s a different pace of a conversation.

But you are in the business of selling clothes…

You sell clothes but first you sell a dream, an image. Thierry Mugler sold clothes but made money from his perfume. I’m not here just to sell clothes, I’m building a brand.

What is that brand?

It is a brand that represents fantasy, surrealism, art, beauty. It has an atmosphere of non-conformity. When I was selling at Ensemble 18 years ago, people were like, “What are these torn and knotted dresses?” The market wasn’t ready then, but it made people curious about me. I’m glad I stuck to what I believed in: fashion forward style.

I admire Alexander McQueen and Salvador Dali. Sculpture, ruffles, sculptural dresses… are my way of showing surrealism and Indian art. Why do people have to think of colors, Rajasthan, Taj Mahal, when they think of India? Why is India always framed in these clichés?

But the perception of Indian fashion and design has changed in recent years…

Yeah, I think it’s almost like a design and fashion force has happened in a country that has a very young fashion industry. I have been very lucky to have this opportunity to introduce myself at a time when everyone’s eyes are on India.

Cardi B at the Gaurav Gupta show on July 6

Cardi B at the Gaurav Gupta show on July 6
(AFP)

Your clothes are worn by celebrities around the world, including Lizzo and Cardi B. Has that helped your brand?

It has had a ripple effect. Clients are increasing; now we have people from as far away as Brazil. Paris has been a great and incredible opportunity to get into the system, learn how to build client networks, personal buyers and how to establish the right sales channels. We are now working on a ready-to-wear line to make the brand more accessible. I can’t tell you more than that, but it will be released later this year. More people want to partner with us now, especially after seeing celebrities like Cardi B, Teyonah Parris, Lizzo or Ranveer Singh wearing our clothes. They all have strong personalities, they break the rules. My brand also breaks the rules.

Were you always a rule breaker?

I’m a sophisticated hippie. I’m gay, I live with a straight friend. I do conceptual fashion. I’ve had naked dresses on the ramp and my mother has called me to say, “woh nah dresses theek nahi thi (those dresses weren’t right)”. My uncles used to ask why I chose a profession that girls do. But my parents and my brother have always supported me. This is how I have gotten as far as I have, including Paris.

How would you compare the Indian fashion scene with that of Paris?

Fashion is not a career; it’s like an art. We are in a different area, they are in a different one. It’s like you can’t compare Tokyo and Paris, even though one would consider Tokyo a very avant-garde place. Each country has its own cultural scale.

It also has to do with the social, political and economic environments of these countries. France has always been a free country, while India was colonized. It takes time for a country to establish itself, to have that kind of money, that kind of purchasing power for luxury, to develop those kinds of disciplines like the fashion industry. We didn’t even have copyright laws for fashion for very long; I’ve been fighting cases because my clothes have been copied. Now there is a department that is investigating such matters. Couture means different things to different people.

Today, there seems to be a shift towards haute couture with a more casual look. Is it something you plan to explore?

Maybe. What is art? It is a reflection of world culture and, at the same time, an engine of it. Fashion is also a constant conversation with society. So when a society changes, so do you, but don’t forget what you stand for and believe in.

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Sara Marcus
Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.
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