It isn’t surprising that singer Cardi B chose an electric blue Gaurav Gupta gown, abandoning her American friends and couturiers. The gown won many hearts at the Grammy Awards 2023 red carpet.
Known for his architectural shapes, drapes and forms resembling the waves or a swelling ocean, sequinned to perfection, Gupta can be given the crown of being the ‘inventor of gowns for an Indian woman’, who is unlike her Western counterpart.
Paris and its history of being super luxurious, its food and people embodying the spirit of everything larger-than-life, was a fresh territory Gaurav has embarked on conquering with his sinuous silhouettes.
“As a first-timer at Paris Couture Week, it was beautiful and surreal. I feel proud and grateful to have been given this opportunity by the esteemed federation to showcase on the calendar at Haute Couture Week in Paris. It’s such a revered global platform and the ultimate mecca of couture. We wanted to be fully prepared as an organisation to keep the momentum sustained. It has been a dream in the making for around 25 years. The team and I are overwhelmed with the heart-warming response we have received from world over,” says Gaurav, a product of Central Saint Martins.
Gupta is able to balance his business and creativity, unlike Manish Arora, the first Indian guru to woo the West who allegedly failed to understand the financial aspects and drowned himself in debt and perished, like many of his predecessors.
Shunya, his line, is a very powerful concept in maths and spirituality, which means zero.
Being from India, what has always fascinated Gaurav is the ancient depth of knowledge and culture of this country. He wanted a very subliminal concept as a base for the collection. When Shunya was discovered, it expanded our mindscape, not just in arithmetic, but in time and dimensions and in very different tangents. “The scape of the mind and possibilities became infinite. I wanted to celebrate that discovery of zero. And have my own interpretations of it. I let my mind flow in different directions conceptually,” says Gaurav.
Hence, there are different segments in the collection. The first is with zero and infinity shapes made in his classic sculptural techniques in handwoven Indian tissue. Wind-like sculptures, which embrace the body, giving it a feeling of infinity.
“For me, a very special moment was a black and white girl walking hand-in-hand in a conjoined infinity dress. For me, togetherness is infinity,” he adds.
The collection then went into elemental concepts of volcanic embroideries on nude bodies and the kundalini snake dresses going into almost like an Egyptian black and gold feeling. He has always been mesmerised by the ancient Egyptian civilisations, discovery of time and metaphysics. But beneath the grandeur is serious hard work, as Paris was a new ground for him and one had to be fully prepared.
“I have been fortunate to have found amazing partners in OBO — our brilliant production house who have done iconic shows and events over many years. Our fantastic stylist— Georgia Pendlebury who has worked with Gaultier and other iconic brands, our amazing hair and makeup team, Hema Bose who handles our VIP clients and works on celebrity strategy with us then there is our lovely PR agency in Paris,” he adds giving credit to the invisible hands who put the show on the road.
Gaurav has been preparing for six months as the first season is always challenging, but now they have a stronger foothold. Sculpting has been his forte and the beauty of it is that he has done this entire line in Indian handlooms including Banarasis. For the first showcase, he wanted to show his brand’s DNA and expand on that and exhibit what he has mastered for many years — sculpting and structured draping was there throughout the collection.
“We did experiment with newer forms of cloud draping and constructed jackets with conceptual embroideries as well. There is a segment which we have done with Indian hand looms which was a very conscious decision. I have always wanted to work with Indian handlooms, but wanted to do it in our own indigenous way. I am excited to do this even more elaborately in the coming seasons,” says Gaurav.
The garbage dress, snakes, kundalini and electric blues, he amalgamated diverse themes into all this with a 1950s Paris theatre where he showcased, brimming with luxurious motifs. For the designer it was a natural process. When you are between zero and infinity when your mind and spirit are open, it was like deep diving into a conceptual art process and he literally just let himself flow.
“I did not bound myself with any restrictions, and then kept revisiting the concepts, sketches and at the same time, followed my instincts through and through. I started the process with a lot of random thoughts and sketches. The electric blue came to me and it was reflective of a futuristic time period to me, as a colour. We wanted to keep it pure as a segment in the collection. The kundalini dresses were natural —when you go into zero, you tend to go towards the kundalini,” he explains.
It was an organic progression to showcase at a global level, and he has been wanting to do this for years. Paris is undoubtedly the ultimate platform for any brand to showcase, and he feels both honoured and humbled to be invited to showcase at Paris Haute Couture Week. “It really makes a global mark for the brand and the designer and is a realm of history, fashion, art and culture,” he adds. As far as stores are concerned, he is partnering with Neiman Marcus and platforms like Moda Operandi, a luxury fashion retailer, this year. “But I do see our own stores for sure a few years down the line,” he reiterates.
Non Resident Indians (NRIs) have been his clients since the inception of the brand. In the last two years there has been a frenzy of requests — from the Princess of Sweden, Switzerland to the world over. Iconic culturists, who have collaborated with Gaurav to make memorable red carpet moments— be it Lizzo for her documentary series “About Damn Time” or Kylie Minogue for her perfume launch, Cardi B’s music video, Megan Thee Stallion’s debut at Oscars or Aishwarya Rai at Cannes — GG has been very fortunate. “And Sharon Stone is just fantastic. It was a beautiful moment. Who doesn’t love Sharon Stone— I have always been a fan and she is beautiful inside out and a personality etched in our subconscious,” says Gaurav.
Gaurav believes it is a very beautiful time for India globally. There is Priyanka Chopra who is representing the nation in a very beautiful way and other athletes, artists, models of Indian origin becoming super models. There is so much happening in the art and other cultural fields globally as well.
“I would requote what Suzy Menkes, a veteran style writer, has written on for our collection, where she says, how India has been stereotyped as colourful, etc but there is so much more depth to Indian sciences, maths, astrology, anthropology, etc. India is an endless phenomenon which the world is waking up to now,” he concludes.