One of my favourite moments last week at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Weeks (WIFW) latest edition was being introduced to someone who the fash frat speaks of only in reverential whispers. There is very little that is known about Gaurav Jai Gupta,and much less has been reported.
An unfortunate coincidence is that he shares his name his full name with a fashion darling. Gaurav Gupta,his senior by just a handful of years,is a spinner of eye-catching and mind-boggling collections himself. The senior Gupta is adored by the country for glamorous cocktail saris with ruched pallus and twisted leather embroideries. His sex appeal is instantaneous,his fashion is au courant and his fan following legendary.
To compete with that is an uphill task in itself. But the younger Gaurav Jai Gupta had to do it. The first task was adding a middle name,but that was the easier part. The next was to grab the eyes by the balls: a slow and steady process of which has just begun.
Jai Gupta,at 32 years,is still what we hacks call an entry-level designer. He is currently only four seasons,or two years,old. His beautiful website boasts his real credentials. He is a National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) graduate,his classmates were the equally brilliant and celebrated Rahul Mishra and Aneeth Arora. He followed it up with a degree from the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. When he made his debut at WIFW in 2011,he was dubbed as the find of the week.
Following his trajectory has been an enriching exercise in understanding the journey of a designer striving to break into the industry. Jai Guptas label Akaaro,which means the letter A in Sanskrit,made its beginnings by being what we grudgingly call a textile designer. Jai Guptas first outing at fashion week was a stall that sold stoles and scarves. He wove the finest Indian fabrics on his own looms; they were beautiful patterns,combinations and yarns. (Many designers experiment with textile but make clothes only with bales of fabric provided by weavers).
Not one to be relegated to the dusty shelves of the industry,Jai Gupta wanted more from Akaaro. He craved the mainstream. He wanted to make clothes that were dipped in the countrys weaving heritage and yet as current in its styles. His first show was graced by his artistic clients and textile mavens: Rta Kapur Chisti and Laila Tyabji.
His first show contoured fabric and made conceptual drapes. He shunted the weft in and expanded it outward to create a ruffle or a wave. It was eye-catching all right,if not too practical.
In his next two collections his ideas take firmer shape. He tied up with Swarovski and glittered his clothes with crystals. His experiments with tailoring began rough,with thick linings lacing his soft weaves.
But finally,Jai Gupta seems to have arrived as close to perfect as he could. His new collection is an avant-garde look at the countrys textile history. He mixes colours and weaves intricately and creates attractive and unusual patterns. His zari is very fine stainless steel. There are crop tops with high-waist trousers,modern saris,tunic shirts and extraordinary patterns on mens jackets.
Jai Gupta seems to have crossed the final frontier. He has made a collection thats Indian in its craft with a British underground edge in its soul. He has subverted tradition and made it relevant to the fashion mood.
He has found his voice and his calling. Now the whispers need to get louder,much louder.