If you are familiar with Gaurav Gupta’s work, it’s no surprise that he seeks out the extraordinary even when he is on the road. Jumping off the tourist trail, seeking experiences that are off the books and “undefining cultures” along the way is what he enjoys. Here, he tells CNT about his travels and how they influence his vision and mission:
Where did you grow up and what influence do you believe it’s had on your sense of fashion?
I was born in Delhi and later lived in Istanbul and London. Delhi has a deep-rooted sense of opulence, culture and tradition in its everyday life. London made my aesthetic more conceptual and open-ended, and all the sub-cultures there challenged my notions of identity. And the Bosphorus in Istanbul epitomises the constant dialogue between East and West. So all of these experiences have influenced my cultural viewpoint. Un-defining and evolving cultures is my jam!
What’s been your most memorable trip and why?
Indonesia. Whenever I plan my vacation, I always make sure to circle into the most remote and untouched areas of the place that even locals wouldn’t know. It’s my time to be one with nature, sign off for a few days and be closer to my spirit. I chose a remote island (even locals in Jakarta didn’t know much about it)–it took me a couple of flights, one long drive and a few boat rides to get there! It felt like the beginning of time: there were hardly any people, basically a vast ocean and floating island hills. I was swimming with turtles, barracudas and snorkelling. I remember one of our journeys from the island, we docked our boat in these vast meadows, and suddenly, exotic sailor boats appeared from nowhere. Right at dusk, at 6pm, we saw millions of bats—they covered the sky and made it black! It was exhilarating and frightening at the same time. This expanse of life, of nature, of the universe is what I travel for. Another trippy trip on this Indonesian holiday was when I went into the Kakaban Lake and swam with stingless jellyfish. On another island, we met Komodo Dragons; the only living species of dragons in the world, descents of the dinosaurs!
Which Indian craft tradition do you most love? Why?
I love the intricacy of Chikankari; we reconstruct and explore newer forms of the craft in subversive Indianwear. I’m fascinated by many Indian textiles, from ikat, to Benarasi brocades to Chanderi—the next chapter would be to expand to that.
I tend to play more with solid silks and organzas, because I am moved by philosophy, surrealism, magical realism and abstract art. Exploring infinity in shapes, forms and feelings.
What sorts of places do you enjoy travelling to, in India and abroad?
Forests! Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore, Pench, and even mountain forests. The lush greenery is soulful, and every creature you encounter is inspiring. The Himalayas, especially Uttarakhand, have a magnetic field that’s really spiritual. I love visiting obscure temples in the mountains, in Odisha, and exploring ancient civilisations like in Hampi and Ladakh. Internationally, I loved my trip to Tokyo—the Japanese are a different species altogether. I love the sub-cultures in London, Paris and Rome. It’s always fascinating to get lost in historic towns all over Italy. I love the Gothic architecture and vibe in Antwerp and Prague. And the Baroque in Vienna. But I tend to go back to forests. The redwood and sequoia trees in California are magical!
What destination is on your bucket list for 2021?
Tel Aviv and the Masai Mara. I’d like to visit the Kabini forest in Karnataka and see [wildlife photographer] Shaaz Jung’s magic.
Where have you spent most of 2020? Do you believe this year has changed anything about the way you—and your clients—think about fashion and design?
I have spent most of the year at home, but my mind has been travelling many universes. I recently spent 20 days in Uttarakhand and even spotted a leopard on a night drive! The pandemic has made the consumer more aware and has generated a virtue of gauging ‘value for money’ in their purchases. They are now looking at timeless creations and most importantly, originality. Many of my counterfeits have shut shop—and from where I stand, I can only say that this happened because now the consumer values originality of thought, value and design. He/she wants a quotient of uniqueness and understands the technical know-how and finesse of couture.
There is a much bigger focus on sustainability, responsibility and circular fashion. More than ever, fashion has become a medium of expression: politically, environmentally and culturally. 2020 has given us much-needed time to ponder on what we do and how we can bring about a change in our everyday life. This is how my fashion film for Couture’20 ‘Name Is Love’ was born. We have shifted to completely sustainable packaging engineered from ocean and landfill plastic. I believe that the future is in originality, sustainability and circularity, and an explorative cultural dialogue.
Tell us about your latest collection.
Our latest collection celebrates love and relationships. Love: love for self, love for all genders, all body shapes, all ethnicities and all sexualities. We wanted to start a cultural dialogue and celebrate a new Indian cultural movement.
In all my collections, I like to explore newer shapes and forms which have a sense of rhythm and infinity, as opposed to a very defined silhouette. Which almost has a sense of rhythm and infinity. And that sense of infinity is what I feel when I travel, when I am with nature, when I am swimming in a deep ocean, lost in a lush forest or on a remote island.
How will people dress for weddings in 2021?
It is all about intimate celebrations for a while. Choices will become more opulent and individualistic yet experimental and easy. Not just for the bride and groom but even for close family and guests.
Have you been able to work on a new creative project this year that has nothing to do with fashion?
I am actually in the middle of re-doing my house! It has become a stress buster-cum-passion project.