Interview with Gautam Gupta, Co-owner of the Label Asha Gautam
Gautam Gupta, co-owner of the label Asha Gautam and Founder of GG by Asha Gautam, is a philosopher, a reader, a traveller, and a lifelong learner.
Gautam’s journey in fashion began at a very early age; in 2003, Gautam formally joined the label Asha Gautam (started in 1998 by his Mother) after completing his education.
Born in Delhi, it’s not surprising that he grew up with the famed sights and sounds of Chandni Chowk, with all of old Delhi’s lanes brimming with historic tales. His father took him across the country to soak in the wonders of mother earth, and his affinity towards nature grew.
It is his mother’s design philosophy that heavily influences Gautam’s work. By the age of 15, he travelled to more than 25 different destinations across the country understanding the diversity and beauty our country possesses.
From the age of seventeen, he started travelling and assisted his mother and travelled to more than twenty-five different clusters to date.
This is where he witnessed her discover and uncover new designs and techniques that he would then see in the fashion world.
Having shadowed his mother in not just the studio but the lanes of Delhi, Banaras, Yeola, Kolkata and many more Gautam would accompany her as she searched for the best fabric quality, meeting artisans, or negotiated and interacted with weavers.
Gautam’s exposure to business and design at a young age led him to study fashion at NIFT as well.
Having established a strong foundation with Asha Gautam backed by formal education, Gautam started GG by Asha Gautam in 2018.
GG is a luxury prêt and fusion wear label from the house of Asha Gautam. The line blends rich handloom textiles with modern sensibilities for a contemporary audience. GG by Asha Gautam is chic, fun and sharp, and the silhouettes and cuts used are edgy and stylish.
His mission is to go beyond those 15 clusters and 30 specialized crafts with a desire to revive many more vintage designs and aid the Indian fashion and handloom society. Gautam has always been appreciative of being born in India as a designer, given the country’s unparalleled crafts diversity.
As a result of his persistent efforts, Asha Gautam is now one of the ten most prestigious Banarasi Lehengas and Sarees brands.
In 2019, Asha Gautam’s designs were shortlisted by FDCI as among 50 of the best creations by 50 designers across India to showcase their craft at Blenders Pride, and he performed at the MyHandloom MyPride show organized by
FDCI. Asha gautam was recently invited to do a show with FICCI FLO for their textile event Anshukam to support Indian Handlooms.
In August 2022, he received a Good Samaritan award from Tamana, an NGO for the differently abled, with whom he is associated for the past 13 years to support their aim of Fashion inclusivity.
Gautam has been an esteemed member of the Fashion Design Council of India for almost a decade now. He has been a speaker as an industry expert at several talks organized by various Fashion organizations such as Pearl Academy, Amity University, GKFTI, and GRIHA summit.
He has written for newspapers on fashion and did TV and radio shows as well. Renowned personalities, including Vidya Balan, Urvashi Rautela, Kalki Koechlin, Sonal Chauhan, Prachi Desai, Amy Jackson, and Hina Khan, are some of the few names that have been sporting the outfits from his designs.
Tell us a little about yourself
Gautam Gupta: I have been part of the industry for 20 years now and have only worked in this industry all my life. I did my schooling at St. Columba’s New Delhi, Graduation in Bcom (Hons.) from Dayal Singh college (Delhi University), postgraduate in management from Amity Business School.
After completing my studies in 2003, I joined Asha gautam which was 5 years old then. After working in Asha gautam for 7 years in all areas such as design, operations, marketing and retail I launched my first capsule collection for the brand in 2010.
I did a one-year course from NIFT in 2011, an online course in sustainable fashion in 2019 and started another label GG by Asha Gautam, specializing in Couture, Fusion and luxury prêt in 2018.
I just completed a 10-month course in Digital Marketing from IIM Lucknow. I love to up skill myself.
Asha gautam was started by my mother Ms Asha Gupta in 1998 and I joined her in 2003. It was her love for Indian sarees, handlooms and embroidery which made her start.
I was helping her along with my education and in that process; I also got attached to the process of handmade fashion.
I wanted to make Asha Gautam a storyteller of rich Indian crafts, an endorser of Indian handmade textiles and embroideries and that is one of the biggest reasons for me to join. My father was into trading menswear fabrics and he passed away in 2007.
Can you provide a brief overview of Asha Gautam and its journey in the bridal fashion industry?
Gautam Gupta: Asha gautam has completed 25 years now and has been a storyteller of Indian textiles and embroideries from its inception.
The label when started by Ms Asha was with the love she has for our rich history and craft. Born in Akola, Maharashtra and her maternal roots in Rajasthan she was inspired a lot by vintage textiles, sarees and embroideries.
She was specifically awestruck with the way her grandmother used to wear and style herself in rich sarees and interesting blouses.
This became her inspiration and the philosophy of the label as well. Over the period of 25 years, we both used to travel to various clusters of craft from Banaras, Bhuj, Yeola, Uppada, Kaithun and many more, to collaborate with weavers and artisans to produce our designs.
Today we work with more than 15 clusters and 25 crafts. We started bridal wear from 2001 till 2016 but we were not very satisfied with what we were making so took a break.
In 2021 we again thought of starting it but with a story which is more classic and timeless so we thought of using our signature Knot embroidery especially French knots as one of the ways to narrate our Vrindavan theme.
More than 15 materials and 18 techniques were used in the collection. We have a designated atelier just for bridal where specialized embroidery is done by artisans from across India.
Kindly brief us about Asha Gautam, its specialization, and the products that it offers.
Gautam Gupta: Rare embroideries such as French knots, petit point and convent have been our forte for more than two decades.
In due course we also created a masterpiece section where finest handlooms were designed and revived to preserve them so for example we started working on Paithani weave in 2016, we were among the first ones to develop handlooms for Banarasi lehengas in 2012 and few designs were done to co-create weaves.
Today asha gautam specializes in a variety of handlooms and even its usage so Banarasi, Paithani, Bandhani and Patola lehengas become our signature designs.
We fuse two or more crafts in a single piece to give a unique experience to our clients. One of the most popular in this is our Paithani lehenga with Bandhani dupatta with Zardosi embroidery, similarly, a Banarasi kurta sharara with bandhani dupatta and ari work.
What inspired you to venture into the bridal lehenga, sari, and wedding outfit niche?
Gautam Gupta: I would say when I joined in 2003 and to date my view has been to empower artisans and give them more work instead of just feeling bad or glorifying them. They need livelihood and to preserve their talent they need consistent work and adequate money.
Keeping the above thought there were two main segments either wedding and occasion wear or selling globally by incorporating contemporary silhouettes.
We chose the former as that was more relatable and easier since it was a start-up in 1998 and we had no background or support system.
Even our inspirations from history and nature, our sensibilities in maximalism and our love for rich crafts made us drift more into Indian luxury wear which was more in bridal wear then.
How does Asha Gautam differentiate itself from other bridal fashion brands in terms of design, quality, and customer experience?
Gautam Gupta: We at Asha Gautam focus more on how to improve ourselves in all the above parameters. Our clients and critics are the best judge of what we do and how to get better.
Since there are few clients who are 25 years old they candidly tell us the areas in which we can get better.
In designs, we strive to create something different from what we have done and in much better ways. Our research is limited to see that the designs or language we want to showcase is not done by someone in the same way.
I mean the process of selecting a theme to develop motifs; artwork and implementation should be not identical to anyone.
For example, if we take a peacock motif which is one of the most common it should look different both in shape and interpretation.
From the quality perspective since the parameters have been there for 25 years we don’t compromise it at all, also we don’t use polyesters or synthetic fabrics as it is against our philosophy of being timeless and eco-friendly.
Could you share some insights into the creative process behind designing and developing your bridal outfits?
Gautam Gupta: So there are five things one is the design process, the other is the design inspiration, the third is budgeting, the fourth is the brand bible and the last is brand positioning.
For design inspiration, we (as a team) sit and discuss a few ideas and themes and even explore the selected ones.
After seeing the application, visual sense, design aesthetics and mood we finalize one and start working on it.
The design process is to elaborate on that final theme in terms of silhouettes, fabric exploration, color board, and embroidery swatches.
An estimate is done to evaluate the average cost of each design and the target cost we want to keep and the mismatch is worked upon by manipulation of textiles and embroidery.
However, we do continue with a few pieces which are a must-have even if the cost goes higher. Then it goes through a stage of brand bile where we see it is not stepping out of our brand bible, a no compromise for the brand and its equity, and lastly will it be able to achieve the positioning we want for the brand or not at that stage or time.
We do review and improvise on things and sometimes also change a few things. For example in our Vrindavan collection which took almost a year, there were some changes as we were not able to achieve the end vision of the collection so a new khaka was made, a new sample was developed and then the process re-started.
What are the key factors you consider when selecting fabrics, colors, and embellishments for your bridal collection?
Gautam Gupta: Most important is the look we want for our bride, and the vibe we want to create for her.
Apart from that, we do see the best fabric for that look, the colors that will justify that vibe and the embroidery which will make it alluring and also keep the brand asha gautam ethos in it.
The above is a design process which is the most critical part of designing. Along with the selection upon the suitability the quality and durability of the fabric and the material used, for example in the case of pearls, there is one which is cheaper but heavy in weight but we don’t even touch that as the embroidery is in abundance so we choose the lightest one in weight even though it cost much more.
Making the bride look good, different as well as comfortable is very important to not compromise on quality materials.
As a brand we believe in timeless fashion so we try to use fabrics, materials and colors which are more classic so that they can be re-worn even if not the entire set then just the lehenga or the dupatta styled with a separate piece.
How do you ensure that Asha Gautam stays up to date with the latest bridal fashion trends?
Gautam Gupta: Firstly I don’t believe that bridal wear for one will ever have a trend as most brides now wear what picture they imagined for themselves.
As far as general trends go, which have some spillover in bridal wear as well, are researched through various ways from socio-economic factors, cultural changes, physiographic analysis, focused group interviews and also feedback from clients, critics and colleagues.
What was the inspiration behind turning an entrepreneur?
Gautam Gupta: To be honest, I never thought that I would choose to be an entrepreneur, it was this love which I developed in those 5 years from 1998 to 2003 when I was studying and being involved passively in Asha gautam.
So after my post-graduation, I decided to work on this label and transform it into a legacy of Indian rich crafts. I love working for it and consider it as my best decision in life.
How do you envision the future growth and expansion of Asha Gautam?
Gautam Gupta: We started a contemporary line GG by Asha gautam five years back to expand the craft domain but now we are adding a few segments in Asha gautam like fusion wear and luxury prêt as well.
There is a recycling project which I am starting soon where I want to create everything from leftover fabrics and embroideries.
The new bridal and handloom collection is a constant factor now each year. From a growth perspective, we are also planning to showcase in a few more cities in collaboration with multi-designer stores. Lastly, we will be adding e-commerce and shop pages on all our social media verticals.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the fashion industry?
Gautam Gupta: The first thing is to think of nature as well in your design ideology as the environment as a stakeholder is a compulsion now.
Secondly, be it a specialist in a craft and own it rather than creating a lot of stories. Be persistent, do what you love and believe as in today’s time you will find your buyer and market once you are truly good in your domain. Don’t follow anyone blindly and lastly hard work has no substitute in the long run.
What are your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Gautam Gupta: I have been always honest with myself and with time realized my strengths and weaknesses, my love and passion and my purpose in life.
I always did and always will want to work on Indian textiles and embroideries and take them domestically and internationally through asha gautam, GG by Asha Gautam and maybe more brands.
I have never looked back, never taken shortcuts, and never taken failure as a reason to quit but as a lesson to improve. Lastly, I had and will always look for improving myself instead of comparing my journey with others.
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