I CAN’T imagine anyone in fashion who wouldn’t want to be Gaurav Gupta in 2023. The talented young designer is having the most amazing start to the year ever. Celebrities have worn it to every major red carpet in the world – from the Oscars to the Grammys. He made his debut at the elite Paris Haute Couture Week. And he has just relocated and renovated his Mumbai boutique to be an architectural marvel.
He’s also getting ready to relaunch his fabulous ready-to-wear line at Neiman Marcus this summer, no less. Whew, I need to sit down.
“Something magical has been happening to us for the past two years. But it’s been in the works for some time now. It took a lot of perseverance, team building and hard work. And I must say I am fortunate and grateful to have the right team members,” the 44-year-old humbly shares credit for his success. It all started for him when he dressed American rapper Megan Thee Stallion for last year’s Academy Awards. Then Mary J Blige for the Time 100 Gala, Maluma for the Latin Billboard Awards, Lizzo, Kylie Minogue, Luis Fonzi, Ashanti, Cardi B… the list is exhaustive. Much of this, says Gupta, is credited to his Los Angeles publicist, Hema Bose. “She is a culture driver, not just a brand strategist and VIP apparel expert. It will place you in the right kind of celebrity, ensuring the brand’s legacy is respected. All the celebrities we dress are transformative.”
Gupta’s show at Paris Haute Couture Week was a fantastic debut and widely publicized by the mainstream international media. “I dreamed about it when I was a student at Central Saint Martins,” he laughs. “I mean, a couple thousand designers apply and only 28 are chosen to walk in the main calendar. That must be something. It was exciting, I felt at home.”
Home has always been a vibe for Gupta. In Paris, she worked with models, girls and trans, from all over the world. Her stylist had also worked with Jean Paul Gaultier, her hairdresser was another famous name, everything else was equally euphoric. “Navki said I was home,”
Navkirat Sodhi, the poet and author, is also his home. The two have been best friends since high school and have lived together for over a decade. They share a platonic relationship, but Gupta insists he and Sodhi don’t believe in boxes or labels. “We don’t understand the concepts of marriage or gender, we just have a feeling of pure love, so we decided to be life partners. We are twin flames,” he explains.
Sodhi, along with his brother Saurav and their parents, hosted the Mumbai store opening. It was peppered with movie stars and brought traffic to a halt in the streets. “The store is 6,000 square feet and has three floors. In the eight years since our folder shop in Kala Ghoda, business has also grown. We were among the top brands in Kala Ghoda, long before it became the fashion and dining hub it is today. And we wanted to have a much more special space, not just a fashion shopping space,” she says.
Designed by Delhi-based architect Vishal Dhar, the all-white space and skylight pay homage to the concept of zero, or Shunya, Gupta’s last muse. “The pillars of our brand have been fantasy, surrealism, primitive future, and it all culminates in the concept of Shunya, or infinity. It’s conceptually like a bunch of zeros flying through the air, landing on the building and making it a store. Dhar is not just an architect, he is an artist,” says Gupta. Gaurav Gupta sells five stores across India, two in New Delhi and one in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata.
Gupta’s approach to bridal wear – the main course of Indian fashion, so to speak – is subversive. The shapes are like frozen waves and wire curtains, each dress an engineering marvel in itself. Her embroidery is also unconventional, like lightning across her body. “It was definitely a challenge to sell them. We are a very conceptual brand and India is a very commercial market. People thought I was an alien. I mean, everyone said it was the future, but how are we going to make money now?” he smiled. He invented a sari with flair, gathered like a Grecian curtain and embroidered with badass leather flowers. Newer versions of saris and sari dresses have appeared. Hybrid beauties who had brides, mothers, mothers-in-law and others in line for this new kind of sensuality.
For a label launched in 2005, Gaurav Gupta is hardly a naive. Her sculptural dresses are elaborate, difficult to store and harder to repeat. But he remains a favorite of brides. “It’s been beautiful to see that we’ve developed a culture and evolved with the culture. Most weddings have two or three big events and one or two of them are ours,” he smiles.
Gupta says his business is still a family business, and that’s huge for a brand with so many major accomplishments. “We are financially comfortable and a lot of what we earn goes back into the business,” he explains. He has opened a giant atelier in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, so that his artisans and workers have a nice place to call an office and are happy to work. I search about the
Namrata Zakaria is an experienced writer and editor and a chronicler of social and cultural trends. Her first book, about the Moda Goa museum of the late fashion designer Wendell Rodricks, will be published soon. Zakaria is especially known for her insider view on fashion, luxury and social entrepreneurship in India. Her writing is appreciated for shaping opinions, busting myths, building reputations, and sometimes breaking an odd career. Zakaria is also involved in joining philanthropic efforts in the field of economic and environmental sustainability.
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