A fashion show in Nairobi, new stores in Mumbai and Kolkata, and fashion residences in Pune — 2014 has already given designer Masaba Gupta an exhilarating start.
Those who follow Masaba Gupta (@MasabaG) on Twitter will know that these days the word “sleep” crops up ever so often in the designer’s posts. The start to the year has been all about hopping flights, working long hours and chasing deadlines, and her Twitter timeline vouches for that. She has packed in a show in Hyderabad, followed it up with one in Nairobi, launched new stores in Mumbai and Kolkata and also collaborated for a fashion residences project in Pune.
Pinning her down for an interview isn’t always easy but when we do, the conversation steers from the recent to the reminiscent. If last year was “creatively very satisfying”, it’s been an exhilarating start to 2014 for the young designer who has taken on multiple projects and a shorter mop of hair. Instantly recognisable for her Afro curls, she has shied away from cutting them short earlier. So the “new hair” comes as a surprise. But as Gupta puts it, “This year is all about doing the unimaginable.”
On that note, she has joined hands with friend and jewellery designer Nitya Arora of Valliyan, and the two launched their joint store in Mumbai’s art district, Kala Ghoda, earlier this month. “I have been pairing Nitya’s jewellery with my outfits for a while now and when she mentioned sharing such a space, I knew it would be a good match,” says Gupta.
The store, which has an easy and contemporary vibe, has on its shelves Gupta’s signature prints as well as Valliyan’s boho-chic baubles. Incidentally, this is Gupta’s second store in Mumbai. “I wanted to showcase more experimental silhouettes at this store, given the feel of the place. Ethnic wear will dominate my Juhu store,” she says.
With her signature label having established itself in just over three years, the designer has shifted gears and eagerly embraced out-of-the-box projects. “In fashion, it’s very easy to be in the comfort zone. I do like to take on challenges and have been lucky to have things shape up on their own,” says Gupta, who was part of Tata Nano’s “Celebrating Awesomeness” campaign last year where she steered style on wheels by giving the car a makeover. She rates it as one of the highlights of that year.
The other being her show-stopper act for “mentor and guardian angel” Wendell Rodricks at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2014. “He’s someone I have always looked up to and the fact that I was with him for the show on the ramp meant a lot. Even though I was very nervous backstage,” says Gupta, who is channeling her creativity for a fashion residences project launched in Pune this month. “It’s a collaborative campaign that also has on board Lara Dutta and Indrani Dasgupta,” says the designer.
Despite the fact that the label is still young and she has to divide time as Fashion Director of Satya Paul, Gupta is clearly looking at spreading wings. “For me, pricing has been a very important aspect in taking the retail story forward. Last year was fantastic (for the brand) and now I am keen to move forward via the franchise model,” says the designer, who opened her first store in Kolkata last week. Having found acceptance for both her signature sari and western silhouettes across age-groups, the designer admits her passion for prints will never fade away.
“Even as a child, I was never to be found in the company of dolls. I was not into wearing frilly floral frocks either,” says Gupta, adding, “I was always observing things and people around me. I was more fascinated with everyday life and the way my mother dressed.” Little surprise then that her ensembles have reflected everyday essentials — lipsticks, pedestal fans, cameras, telephone booths and auto rickshaws.
Her mother’s fashion sensibilities, she admits, have played an important role in her body of work. “For one, I feel a responsibility towards Indian handloom. My collections have always reflected that because I saw my mother wear her saris with such pride and style,” says the designer, who is now working to finalise her Autumn-Winter 2014 collection for Satya Paul to be showcased at Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week next month in Delhi.