Sunday, July 20, 2014

Interview with Gaurav (Jai) Gupta

I was a pretty clueless child 5 years ago. I did not know jack shit about design and fashion (I wasn't supposed to either, but still). In my three weeks at the studio, I would spend time just looking at these beautiful AKAARO scarves at the studio and then watching this craftsman make similar stuff on a hand loom in the workshop just across the central courtyard. Gaurav’s studio was a rectangular room behind a deep verandah. The high ceiling was supported on metal beams and lined with stone slabs, all painted white. Half the studio was a display area and the other half was the work space. Once in the three weeks, I helped with moving the stuff around in the studio, to see if the reworked layout was more efficient (the architecture student that Iwas). Gaurav was pretty patient with me hovering around and also with my seemingly stupid questions. Here are a few notes from our conversation, jotted down in a ruled ‘classmate’ notebook, with a felt tip pen in June, 2009.


Tell me a little bit about textiles (Yeah, this is exactly how clueless I was!)

Alright, see, just in the way the human skin is to protect our internal organs from external changes and respond to them, clothing is the second skin and a shelter/enclosure can be the third skin. So depending on the need/ function one explores textiles and how they can be made. Textiles also make visual barriers (And I’m thinking buildings already, pftt.)

So intersections with architecture? 

They happen as they are required. With cave dwellings were also tents, remember?! There are tensile fabrics used for temporary and light weight roofs, tri-axial fabrics used for aerospace projects and of course in, fabrics in interior spaces for covering or dividing space. It is easy to get a sense of enclosure with textiles.

With your background in textile design, I see lots of interesting explorations with material. Tell me about how you work with them?

Yeah, there are natural materials like wool, cotton, silk. Now I have been exploring stainless steel as a material for my weaves. With new materials are new possibilities of exploring volumetric and the feel of fabrics. Also, properties like breathability, usability, opacity and stiffness have the possibility of being rethought. While natural fabrics usually have a timeless, organic quality, fabrics from newer materials could perform better for specific uses.

There is the interesting structural quality to the fabrics I see here. Where does this aesthetic come from?

My sense of aesthetic comes from the way I see beauty in the world around me. The expression is usually minimal, muted and engineered. I think a lot of how we think and produce through design comes subconsciously from our upbringing and experiences. I grew up in this very organized, dimly lit environment. There were parks and playgrounds by they were all rectilinear. I feel this memory growing up has translated into my ideology of thinking structure, frame and engineering. The colour palette has always been muted.

My work doesn't seem striking in the first look I think. Nothing is popping out for attention. The richness of the content is in the detail that has gone into making of the fabrics and the garment. You have to look closer.

What would you say your key inspirations are?

Urbanity and its repetition; Urban Chaos and perhaps the sadness that comes with it. I also find deep inspiration in Issey Miyake and Japanese and Scandinavian design.

This engineered pattern making I feel is quite far from at least how I had perceived Indian textiles for all this while. I always think of Indian textile and I think of colour and embroidery. So your work is not literally Indian, but there is something in it that still feels very much like contemporary India.

Yes, it has happened before that buyers have not been able to completely figure what they described as an inherent sense of warmth in my fabrics. It is this soul that they said makes my work feel Indian. Some said that the Indian-ness comes naturally and intuitively in the spatial arrangement of patterns and their scale. The look is engineered, but the feel is handmade.

Hmm, I guess it is the handmade quality that must make it warmer!

Absolutely! There is a certain humane organic quality of the hand loom that cannot be replaced with the power loom. On the power loom, set patterns are fed onto the computer and they are just repeated. On the hand loom, even though the work is much slower, the possibilities of modifications and innovation right in the middle of the process are possible, because you work directly with the craftsman. In that sense it saves time and resources majorly. Also, the hand loom being labour intensive also retains traditional livelihoods.


I figured he was a (pretty kickass) textile designer who was then beginning to explore garments. Also, I could figure that this was someone working very closely with the idea of crafting.

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