“It has been a dream, 25 years in the making, and I have been quite impatient myself,” Gaurav Gupta confesses. Four days ago, through a simple Instagram post, Gaurav’s atelier informed us of their invitation from the Fédération de la Haute Couture to showcase at the official Paris Couture Week calendar. He is the third Indian designer, after Rahul Mishra (who has been showing every season since 2020) and Vaishali S (in 2021), to showcase at the prestigious couture week. It would seem the federation is handpicking India’s most fantastical clothes-makers, whose design prowess is as powerful and global in their appeal as their embroideries. For any designer, this is a massive badge of approval, but certainly a moment for someone who has dedicated their entire career trajectory making one-of-a-kind pieces.
The post garnered hundreds of comments, all to the tune of ‘much deserved’, ‘finally’ and ‘about time’. The 43-year-old, Central Saint Martins graduate, avant-garde Indian couturier has been a phenomenon on his home ground since his debut, but on the international waters he has had a major year.
This year alone he has dressed Megan Thee Stallion at Oscars, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan at Cannes, Cardi B in her music video, and Lizzo, Kylie Minogue, Maluma, Fan Bing Bing — all ‘big league’ names have worn him at various red carpet moments through 2022. His association with international press and communication agencies such as KCD and Maison Bose are to be credited for these big styling moments, but mostly it is also his inimitable, unabashed commitment to making a statement, on and off the runway.
Not much can be revealed about his upcoming couture collection. Gupta is sworn to secrecy, “We can’t disclose the colours, but it is very much the purest representation of the brand’s DNA featuring sculpting. Fantastical, surreal themes take centerstage. You will also be able to spot the Indian elements right at outset,” he says. Since it’s the brand’s debut, setting the benchmark is of utmost importance to the designer.
Sculpting and more
The Indian wedding market is estimated at a whopping $50billion, so it’s no surprise that couture and bridal is synonymous in the country. “With international luxury brands making a foray into the Indian market, a discerning customer now values customisation and bespoke tailoring for wedding and its auxiliary events,” Gaurav reasons. Even so, he has always believed that his pieces cannot be subjected to a theme. Couture transcends seasons and reasons. This year, he also opened a state-of-the-art, on-special-appointment-only atelier in Noida. He wanted a space that would cater to his wildest imagination, and where his prime clientele would give him a freehand; where market and collection size limitations do not exist. It houses his top tailors, pattern cutters and embroiders under one roof.
“It’s for clients who want something above couture,” Gaurav shares. He is referring to his one-of-a-kind, textile-jewel pieces. You would have to spend to the tune of ₹10 lakh and above on an ensemble made at the atelier. Gaurav notes that as India’s youth and its disposable incomes comes into its own, events such as 40th birthday getaways, 25th anniversaries, big business promotions are all worthy of huge celebrations with exclusive pieces.
Even as luxury market trackers keep predicting China as the Asian country of note, India is making a huge mark on the global hemisphere. There is a larger-than-life Bharti Kher sculpture watching over Central Park in New York. Priyanka Chopra’s world domination streak (most lately via her international haircare brand- Anomaly) knows no end. Models like India-born Madhulika Sharma, Indian-origin Ashley Radjarame, and Zinnia Kumar have been featured on leading fashion magazine covers and campaigns all around the world. Indian diaspora-centric shows on Netflix like Never Have I Ever… and Ayurveda-inspired beauty brands going mainstream have all contributed to this spotlight.
And when it comes to Indian design, the most seasoned names are going global — JJ Valaya designed costumes for Angela Bassett’s character Queen Ramonda in the movie Wakanda Forever and Sabyasachi opened his first ever store in New York.
“While India is letting its presence known internationally, the design recognition is in concentrated pockets. There is much to be achieved there,” says Gaurav. It’s an astute thought, but requires big shoes to execute. Gupta wears a size 10.