He was commissioned by Central Saint Martin's London as a trend forecaster from Delhi. While doing freelancing and teaching jobs Gaurav Jai Gupta set his studio 'Akaaro' and debuted his first collection at the Wills Fashion week 2010. He has successfully collaborated with Jimmy Choo, Duro Owlu London, and Heimstone Paris.
An awardee of the Grazia Young Fashion Award in 2011, Designer Of the Year Award 2011: International Apparel Federation Mexico and finalist at Woolmark Prize 2015-16 and Vogue Fashion Fund, He believes in an ethical and sustainable fashion. Thus his label Akaaro innovates Indian fashion by designing and developing original fabrics in-house at the studio-workshop in New Delhi and engineers garments that are one-of-a-kind timeless & experiential classics.
I KNOCK FASHION took the opportunity to speak with Designer Gaurav Jai Gupta about his journey as a designer, the design aesthetics behind Akaaro, and its association with sustainability, amongst other things.
To be honest, it was actually quite accidental! I didn’t know anything about fashion!
So, if you didn’t really want to work in fashion, what was the one moment that made you say ‘I want to do this’?
When I was in school, I would do a lot of extracurricular activities – a little bit of music, a few fine arts, sketching, almost everything! I had a creative mindset since then. I remember a friend of mine was applying at that time and I was someone who didn’t want to do the usual academic degree. Somebody mentioned NIFT stating that it’s a good college and I was actually pretty impressed by their campus as well. Even when I was in the middle of the course completion, I didn’t know what fashion all about would be.
When we talk about Akaaro, it's something very different to the present fashion scenario, how do you come up with such aesthetic since the design style and experimentation is so different?
A lot of it has to do with curiosity! Also, I don’t like to see people doing something and then replicate the very design methodology. Plus, there’s no one way to do it right! We’re very honest about what we plan to do and that’s literally the only way I know how to go about it! I don’t go by trends or who’s wearing what, I don’t believe in that concept. It’s very important to understand that it's not just about making money if you’re in this business; at the end of the day, you have to create value. A lot of what we do also comes from our design process and also our different upbringing.
So when you say that the way you’ve been brought up and how you’ve lived influenced your style, how exactly did it do that?
I think and create from the point of view of a value-based upbringing. I wouldn’t say that it reflects in my style or designs but coming from a middle-class household, I’ve seen and observed a lot and based on the kind of silhouettes that we create, which is less of traditional and more of futuristic since I want to create what I don’t know or haven’t seen till now! For me, it’s a medium to communicate and express freely. So as a creative person, you grow a lot as and when you engage in different things, meet people, get to know things you haven’t learned before. A lot of my work speaks about purity and just being honest to yourself and others. Plus I actually feel that a lot of people from my era are like this.
What does sustainability mean to you? How do you associate Akaaro with sustainability? Do you ever feel like stepping out of the zone of sustainability?
As I see it, sustainability isn’t altogether new! I’m born with sustainability! It’s not just a fashion term, in fact, everything about sustainability dates back to the time when we had just a few modes to travel and in our household, walking was the very first one! Sustainability is also a lot about being conscious, doing things sensibly. For a lot of people right now, it’s a trend whereas I would like to imbibe the very into Akaaro as something that resonates with my upbringing. I’ve heard terms like circular economy, and I say to myself ‘we were born in it’! It isn’t new and interesting to hear because we’ve all been living like this, sustainably and in a circular economy since day one. And to quote it with a new trend is actually pointless.
Why the name ‘Akaaro’? What exactly does it mean?
Akaaro is a Sanskrit term, what Alphabet ‘A’ is to English. Supposedly, it's also an auspicious term. I’ve always used it in the way of an auspicious beginning in the form of a metaphor. When I came across the word Akaaro, it sounded very interesting to hear and powerful at the same time. Plus, it sounded very Japanese as well!
You’ve come up with a number of collections but is there any collection, in particular, that is close to your heart and for what reason?
I think a lot goes into every collection we make. There are times when it actually takes 2 years to make a collection. There is nothing which is less than a year. And everything is a continuation of each other. So, whatever I’ve been doing since the first season, I’m still continuing with the same series to date. I don’t think there’s any collection in particular that stands out. For me, an equal amount of work and effort goes into every collection’s making.
Where all is your collection available? Do you sell online as well?
We do sell online as well as offline. Our collections are available at stores like Good Earth, Ogaan, Ensemble, Cinnamon Store in Bangalore, Amethyst in Chennai, pretty much all the stores in India.
Do you feel that online sales are much more than offline stores?
No, I think that our offline sales are much better than online as of now. It might take time for online sales to kick in.
Is there any milestone you’ve achieved that you’d like to mention here?
No, I don’t believe I’ve reached a point where I consider myself reaching a huge milestone in life. For me, achieving a milestone is an internal process and is very personal to me. And I think when that happens, maybe we won't even know when it did!
What do you think about the future of Indian fashion and textiles at a global level?
I feel that the future of Indian fashion and textile is very bright and its always going to grow from here. Especially when people are starting to realize the importance of handloom in the industry. There is a lot of potential and talent indeed, but at the same time I think it needs to stay relevant, needs to be updated at all times, also needs to be kept fresh. If I look at it on a global level, I feel that individuality needs to come out a lot more than what’s present in the world.
What is your vision for ‘Akaaro’? What is the next collection you're coming up with?
There are a couple of things happening at the moment which I can’t really discuss but we’ve been trying to do some very different things than before. We are very concerned about the environment right now; we’ve always been but we’re now working on something that is slowly and steadily taking shape. We are indeed working on creating more prints and express in other such ways, be more sustainable, and introduce relevant content as well.
When do we expect to see your next collection?
So, the next season collection is going to come out now, which would be the Winter 2019 Collection. Within a week or so, you can expect our range to be launched!
As we go through Akaaro, there are a lot of fabric manipulations and developments that take place within your own arena, this is a way of revolutionizing fashion in India. How else do you want to revolutionize through Akaaro?
I don’t think I’ve seen it as a revolution. I’m not much of a revolutionary. We’ve always created our own fabrics from scratch. That is what we’re about, we make our own textiles. And this is the only thing I know and I do what I know.
We have a lot of upcoming students and fashion enthusiasts in the very area, is there any message, in particular, you’d want to give them?
I would say, don’t look left and right. Believe in what you do and just have the patience to fulfill your dreams. There are no shortcuts to reach the final destination.