Over the past few months, I have conducted several interviews with various South Asian designers whom I admire. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the chance to interview any of them face-to-face, as there are thousands of miles between my home in America and theirs in India. So I thought it might be fun to use my imagination to bridge the gap. I asked designer Aarti Vijay Gupta to help me set the mood for our interview. She chose a place we would have met if things were different and we lived in the same city…
Aarti Vijay Gupta takes a sip of her caramel flavored cold coffee at Starbucks, around the corner from her Mumbai studio, and exhales pleasurably. After the successful debut of her Spring/Summer 2015 collection, “My World of Glass,” she has much to be happy about. Revered for her imaginative and quirky prints, it’s important that you know that she’s actually dressed in a basic outfit of a white cotton t-shirt and black Zara pants. Effortless, but still stylish. You see that’s the contradiction that is Aarti Vijay Gupta. She likes to keep it simple, yet her intricate designs seem anything but. Look more closely and you’ll see that they are incredibly wearable, comfortable and most certainly chic. All of those prints bring life to her work and her passion shines through in the colors, the theory and the attention to detail with regards to the story she is trying to tell.
As Aarti Vijay Gupta looks back at her life, she considers that moment after her graduation from NIFT* Mumbai that sparked her success. “The first step that you take towards what you really want is the most monumental,” she said. “When you pursue your dreams and do what feels right — days like that are significant on your path to success,” she advises.
Gupta cut her teeth in the industry for 4 years before launching her own label, a truly significant point in her career. And she’s continued to mature from there. Every day she takes on new challenges and sets new goals. “You evolve daily,” Gupta muses. “Perhaps you start off wanting to be the best designer. Or you want to connect with the world. Maybe you want to become more consumer-friendly. Or perhaps you’d like to be more creatively sound. And sometimes you just want to break all of the norms and try something new, against your gut feeling.” These are the thoughts of a true artist searching for meaning and self-awareness.
However, don’t be confused. It’s not about self-doubt or insecurity. And she’s definitely not the type to compare her work to others. “Those that pursue this type of career for creative satisfaction or fun don’t end up comparing themselves to others. You see this as less of a competitive field and more of a field with infinite possibilities. That way you can focus on doing what you love the most.”
And it certainly shows through her stunning work how much she loves to design. In fact, it’s pretty exciting to see how everyday pieces become the foundation for her collections. “My ideology is simple: take something extremely mundane and turn it into wearable art.” In past seasons, she has adapted popular symbols of Indian history and art such as Indian postal stamps, silk miniature paintings and even the country’s map into her work. She hopes to put India on the map as a designer by taking Indian art to the world. “We have our textiles, hand-woven fabric and art to showcase. Indian elements really stand out internationally.”
Her most recent collection travels a bit further from home drawing inspiration from Moroccan mosaic tea glasses. “Mosaic Art is a technique. It is essentially bright while the patterns are intricate and defined. As a whole, it looks like a vibrant colorful piece of art,” she explains. “To capture the transparency of Moroccan glass, I used organza to get that sheer look and applied mosaic patterns to it, she reveals. “Layering contrasting prints makes the whole ensemble more mysterious. Building contrast really is the best way to attain a complete look. The silhouette is loose to keep it comfortable, easy and wearable.”
Actually, her philosophy is all about designing for comfort and ease of wear. That way she can focus on reaching out to as many clients as possible all over the globe. “My silhouettes are simple and clean, which allows the prints to do all of the talking. Bold prints should be worn just as they are meant to be — in your face and raw. I don’t do color blocking nor do I like to balance prints with solid colors. I like my prints as is.” Point taken — solid advice on mixing prints from a print maven.
One of the best compliments she’s received as a designer has been from revered Indian designer Rohit Bal. “He said the collection was very new age and fresh,” Gupta recalls proudly. However, one of the most sincere compliments may be from Fern Mallis, founder of New York Fashion Week, who also happens to be a fan and client. “She loves it as it’s Indian yet global at the same time. In fact, I like the way Fern Mallis teams up one of my shirtdress tunics with almost everything and still looks so different each time,” Gupta gushes.
Oh so modest, Ms. Gupta. Perhaps it’s because your pieces are so wild and rare that it’s hard not to look unique in them. They have the ability to transform the wearer. Like Gupta says, her collection is not just comfortable clothes, but wearable art. I’ll buy a ticket to her gallery any day.
*NIFT stands for the National Institute of Fashion Technology
All images courtesy of Aarti Vijay Gupta.