LFW finale designer Gaurav Gupta on creating couture from ocean plastic, and having his muse Kareena Kapoor Khan back

Gaurav Gupta takes us through his LFW finale collection where he presents couture, demi-couture and prêt featuring fabrics created from plastic found in landfills and oceans
Gaurav Gupta who is best described as future primitive, is all set to recreate his magic again at Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale
Gaurav Gupta who is best described as future primitive, is all set to recreate his magic again at Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale

IN 2015, DESIGNER Gaurav Gupta closed Lakmé Fashion Week at Mehboob Studio in Bandra with a show titled Sculpt. On display were glamorous ruffles, oversized shoulders, exaggerated sleeves and romantic drapes with the gorgeous Kareena Kapoor Khan, his showstopper. Six years later, Gaurav, who is best described as future primitive, known for innovative pattern cutting and sculptural draping, is all set to recreate his magic again at Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale, and is bringing back his favourite muse, Kareena, after two seasons. Called #DefineToRedefine, the collection will see Gaurav presenting his signature couture, demi-couture as well as prêt using fabrics created from plastic found in landfills and oceans. Ahead of the show on Sunday, we spoke to the avant-garde designer about his collection, his choice of fabric and if ready-to-wear is going to be an extension of the label Gaurav Gupta. Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Run us through the mood board of your collection, #DefineToRedefine. Tell us a little bit about the creative process. 
The mood board reflects my experiences from my diving trip to the Andamans in January this year. When I dived underwater, I saw an endless universe out there and it was really magical. This collection is inspired by that feeling. 

FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week and I together came up with the concept for the finale. I wanted to redefine the way people look at shapes, forms and (the concept of) sustainability, which (in the realm of fashion) is usually seen as daywear and organic. I wanted to redefine it as sexy and glamorous. We literally took wrappers of crisps and biscuits, plastic bottles and other daily consumables and turned them into the fabric with which we have created Gaurav Gupta couture, demi-couture and some ready-to-wear pieces in gold, silver, white gold, black, white and some metallic colours.

Q. What led you to upcycle ocean plastic? What were the challenges you faced?
First, was finding people who make fabric out of the plastic found in oceans and landfills because for me, the carbon footprint is a burning reality and all of us in the fashion and other industries need to wake up to the need of causing lesser carbon footprint. Thankfully, we found someone in Pune who weaves actual plastic into the fabric, and we sculptured clothes out of that. We have also used some PET plastic as a base for our garments. So the challenge was: could we make it look Gaurav Gupta?

<em>A sketch from Gaurav Gupta's Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale collection</em>
A sketch from Gaurav Gupta's Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale collection

Q. Take us through the silhouettes and the surface detailing technique you have used in this collection?
The silhouettes are all inspired by underwater creatures and there are abstract shapes that have been sculpted but with complete precision. You will see a lot of exploration in shape, and some real statement pieces. When it comes to surface detailing, we have used glass beading.

Q. Gaurav Gupta is all about couture. What made you design ready-to-wear pieces?
We are known for couture and demi-couture. Our ready-to-wear collection is also more towards evening and party wear. I am doing it for this collection, whether or not they will be a permanent part of what we do, we will see.

Q. Kareena Kapoor Khan is back after two seasons. Does she make for a perfect GG muse? What is it about her that you absolutely adore?
She definitely makes a fantastic muse for Gaurav Gupta. She is a complete woman! She is a mother and a fantastic artist. She is extremely elegant, has a sense of humour and is someone whose presence demands attention. She brings originality to the table. She really is a star, and a perfect one to dress.

Q. What led you to pursue avant-garde couture? 
I think it was a natural calling. I have been into art, not necessarily fashion, since school and it just came out in the form of fashion. I ended up going to the best college in India (NIFT, Delhi) and the best college in London (Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) and one thing led to the other. The innate need to do something new and challenge people’s perspectives drove me and continues to drive me. 

Q. How have your design sensibilities changed over the years?
I think I became more and more confident. I am not trying to prove a point anymore. I am very confident in my aesthetics. Obviously, I do get bored of my own aesthetic at times and I think opportunities like Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale challenge and push me to go out of the box and discover more sides to me and my brand. 

Q. Has the pandemic altered your approach towards design/fashion?
No. Not at all. If anything, it has made me believe even stronger in my aesthetics and what I do. I realised that people come to Gaurav Gupta for its statement gowns, lehengas and saree-dress/gowns. They want the uniqueness and the fantasy that we create. 

<em>A sketch from Gaurav Gupta's Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale collection</em>
A sketch from Gaurav Gupta's Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale collection

Q. How often do you create a new collection? And, how do you go about creating a new collection? 
We make about three to four collections in a year. The process of creating a new collection is very abstract, and each collection has its own process. Sometimes I would sit down and brainstorm a few words, at times I would refer to our own techniques and colours, because they are very much ours, and at times, we explore new colours or fabric. For this collection, the ocean was the inspiration. It started with finding and making sure that are we able to use these kinds of special fabrics, and then working on the shapes and silhouettes that we could explore with it. Define To Redefine is something for which I didn’t go through many commercial rules. But, having said that, it is very special to me because it gave me an opportunity to explore myself in a unique way. 

...but are you a very meticulous designer or somebody who is all over the place?
I am a mix of both. It is like I am sticking to a timeline, but that timeline gets stretched a little bit. My schedule looks like I am extremely meticulous, which I am but at the same, I look like I am all over the place, which is also important otherwise you lose the magic. 

Q. You have been designing for a little over a decade and a half. Do you find yourself drained at times? How do you replenish yourself?
Completely. That’s why I do plan to take a really nice vacation after the show. I go for the obvious things that recharge all of us — a vacation, focus on health, food, exercise, meditation, talking to close friends and family.

Q. Lastly, what’s your dream project?
To design costumes for a fantasy movie or series, but it should be mixed with my fantasy. I think I will have to co-create it (laughs).

Quick 10:
Your biggest critic: My brother Saurabh (also the director of the Gaurav Gupta label), and my best friend, Navkirat Sodhi, with whom I have been living for the last two decades. 
The biggest risk you took: Opening multiple retail stores in the last couple of years. It was a risk but we are already rewarded. 
If not a designer, you would have been: An artiste, a dancer or an astronaut.
Biggest pet peeve: People who are incompetent. 
If you could host four people, alive or dead, for a dinner: Buddha, Cleopatra, Michel Jackson and Mahatma Gandhi.
A country/city that inspires you the most: Indonesia/Italy. 
Your label’s aesthetic in three words: Infinity, progressive and fantasy.
The most difficult decision to make was: Moving back to India 17 years ago.
The future is: In our collective hands of the community and waking up to the crisis of climate change.
Trends that we can expect this wedding season: I don’t believe in trends. I make them (laughs)

heena @newindianexpress.com
Twitter/Insta: @heenakhandlwal

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