I Don’t Get Excited if I Keep Doing The Same Thing, Says Gaurav Jai Gupta
I Don’t Get Excited if I Keep Doing The Same Thing, Says Gaurav Jai Gupta
Coming from a small place like Rohtak, Gaurav Jai Gupta, has definitely lived up to the dream, he carried while leaving the city. Gupta’s brand Akaaro, the name of which has been derived from Sanskrit language, represents today’s India and is very much Indian at its core. It is aesthetically appealing and also has an international appeal. Besides, his collections are close to nature, along with being experimental, mature, refined, understated and evolved- radical and sharp-just something that today’s Indian women would like to wear.
Akaaro is an extension of Gaurav Jai Gupta’s personality and his ideals, and having worked with handloom fabrics right from the yarn stage, the designer proudly calls his label way ahead of time. Though he admits that Bollywood in general is a big influence on the fashion scene in India, he is quick to add that it doesn’t influence and can never influence his brand. In a candid chat with FFT, he gives an insight into his brand’s journey, thought process and success mantra.
FFT: Indian handloom fabrics are something that a lot of designers are working with, especially now. So, how do you differentiate yourself from them and why is it that we don’t hear much about you?
GJG: I don’t really think we need to try too hard to differentiate ourselves! I feel, we do just what we do and people are very smart, so they know it. It’s more about creating, therefore you see the effort and as a brand Akaaro is very genuine and sincere, and that really works out for me.
As far as remaining low key is concerned, I have never really made any extra efforts to go out. We do our job, we do shows and whatever it takes, but at the end of the day, I think product is the king and it’s all about the work you do. Also, we have stayed away from Bollywood- I think that is one big reason why you don’t hear too much about us. As I said earlier, we are in our own space.
I don’t think Akaaro is competing with anyone or needs to compete with anyone. So, we just take it easy and have fun with what we do.
FFT: Describe the challenges you faced while building up the brand?
GJG: One of the biggest challenges for us has been to strike a chord with a larger consumer base, as we don’t do much of traditional work, we don’t use imagery, which is old-style, so I think people sometimes don’t understand what we are trying to do. Today, they appreciate, respect and love what we do-but it has taken time. It’s been a very slow growth for us and now handloom is the buzz word and everyone is trying to take the credit of what it is and what it is not.
FFT: Who would you say is more successful, someone who plays safe or someone who is experimental?
GJG: Success means different things to different people! Personally, every time we go out, we would like to offer something new and fresh. I don’t get excited if I keep doing the same thing. I mean what’s the point if I keep doing the same thing- just change the colours, the settings-I don’t think that makes any sense.
I think every brand has its own idea of what it wants to do. Commercially, we do balance our sales, so even while we are experimenting, we do know what works for us. I don’t want to get bored and I think fashion is about progression-it reflects what’s going on.
FFT: How important is digital marketing in the brand building exercise?
GJG: I think in today’s age, it is very important because one of the things that I learnt recently is that we need to communicate. What happens with the fashion industry is that sometimes we get so absorbed within the industry that we forget there is a larger audience.
In fact, the actual people who are consuming what we make are not a part of the industry, so we need to communicate, we need to strike a chord with them and I think digital space is a fast medium that helps you to connect with everyone on a one-to-one basis.
We are very active on Instagram because we want to be more visual and people respond more to images. It’s a slow process but we get a lot of good responses. At the same time, we need to be very careful on how we use the space also, as while it does have its plus points; too much of it is also is not really good.
FFT: How often do you create a collection and how many pieces does each collection have? Also, which are the materials you like exploring with?
GJG: We have not been actually sticking to the seasons for a very long time. We don’t show every season. This season, we have shown after a gap of almost two years so, if you are showing then obviously you have to stick to the season. ‘Amazon India Fashion Week’ has a certain format, which we have to stick to and apart from that we take part in a lot of trade shows across the world like in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and Paris and they too have different formats. Australia for example, is reverse in terms of seasons and most of the trade shows in Hong Kong happen just once a year. Therefore, we blend a lot of our seasons together.
I particularly think that some of the products are evergreen so, we call them Akaaro classics. They are there throughout-you can just come in and shop for them.
We definitely do a minimum of two collections, a year. Any collection will have almost 35- 40 ensembles, which are complete looks but we do more separates, almost 100 every collection. We do two to three capsule collections also, depending on our buyer’s requirements. As far as materials are concerned, I generally work with cotton, silk wool, stainless steel and zari.
FFT: Which segment of the society do you cater to and why? And how do you ensure that each collection is different for the same target audience while retaining your signature style?
GJG: I have really never thought of any particular age group while designing. I think, over a period, we have built up a certain consumer base. A lot of it is definitely for 30+ and 35+, mature customer, who is very well travelled and very international; Indians who travel abroad, Indians who are living abroad, expats in Delhi and a lot of Japanese people. However, there are times when we do have a lot of young girls who are also buying, we do pieces like crop tops and things similar.
We don’t really try too hard to be different, I myself don’t like the same thing so for me, it’s not very tough but at the same time it’s not very easy because to churn out a collection every six months, which is completely different really takes a toll. We follow a process and are very clear and I think, it has been visible also in my past collections.
If we start from one season to another-you will see a lot more variations in terms of colours, fabrics, everything changes but there is definitely a strong signature style, which defines Akaaro.
FFT: Do you refer to any forecasting magazines or websites? How important are trend forecasts in Indian fashion?
GJG: We have recently started looking at style.com, just to see what’s going on and what people are doing but on a larger extent I don’t think it is relevant for us, as our shapes are very simple and straight. Some of the pieces are drapes, so they are again very fresh. I do them on my own.
I have been a trend forecaster myself in my first job and I do understand how it works, so I don’t necessarily think that forecast right now is made for Indian consumer.
Indian market works very differently, we have our own festivals and season wise also India is complex as you only have winter season in the north. Therefore, we have to have our own system. Moreover, I feel that Indian designers are much more talented, as we design without any reference. It’s quite amazing.
FFT: Where do you see your label in the coming 5-10 years?
GJG: Right now, we are on an expansion mode and are going live with our e-commerce website, this year. We are putting a lot more energy in our overseas business, as well as in India and doing more menswear, and our Indian wear would be increasingly sarees and other things. We are looking at our own stores just to be more independent. So, I think over the next five years, you would hopefully see a lot of changes.
FFT: Tell us about your new collection.
GJG: We are still working on our new collection! It’s summer and spring collection, so is a lot more colourful and we are working with silk, cotton, a lot zari and linens. The collection consists of basic overlays like sarees, separates and our references are from different areas. We are going into a little bit of Indian mythology and are still adding things to it.
Photographer & Videographer : Tauseef Jamal