Review: Mumuksha by Akaaro
Gaurav Jai Gupta takes the handloom hype forward with experimental design and wearable garments
Earlier this week, the Amazon India Fashion Week’s (AIFW’s) Autumn/Winter edition in Delhi opened at a new venue: the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Well-planned show areas, a buzzing food court, cafés and lounges, exhibition booths for business and a display of designer collections and edgy installations turned the hub into a charged environment suited to India’s premier fashion week.
All the same, it is fashion collections (and their business) that eventually determine the heft of such an event. Top marks on Day 1 then to textile and fashion designer Gaurav Jai Gupta of Akaaro for his collection Mumuksha. It means “one who is curious for ultimate knowledge”, according to the collection note. I would, however, urge a gentle distance from intellectual vocabulary like “conscious/subconscious”, “internal/external”, “chromatic/achromatic”. If these abstract binaries are meant for fashion buyers, it is difficult to understand what they achieve. If they are for the fashion media, they do little to add perspective on the clothes. Better, instead, to concentrate on the facts: the personality, look and design inventiveness of the collection. This one strongly underlined Jai Gupta as a designer whose work will be noticed for its original timbre in seasons to come.
Mumuksha showed handwoven reversible fabrics developed into fine blends of merino wool, monofilament silks, cottons, zari and stainless steel. Jackets for men and women, jacket dresses, scarves, cotton-silk pants, saris, silk culottes, striped pants, longs kurtas, Tussar-silk quilted jackets, stretch shawl capes, merino wool trousers as menswear and silk-wool blouses—there were many “kinds” of clothes in many well thought out interpretations of the original idea.
For those conversant with contemporary Indian fashion’s self-conscious need to move above and beyond embellishment and embroidery, and beyond the restrictions of the pretty and perfect body, this collection made instant sense. It took the handloom hype forward with experimental design turned into wearable garments instead of gimmicky fuss. In fact, one of the silk zari saris styled with a sheer silk blouse in its naturally unironed look would work fabulously as a red-carpet piece, as would a stainless-steel dress with leather straps from the collection. Beauteous, bold, unexpectedly glamorous in its drape, the sari was like a bolt of lightning wrapping the model. The footwear by Aprajita Toor kept pace—it was chunky, big, wired.
Even so, the triumph of the collection lay in something simpler. That was its communicative appeal: The clothes looked appealing in a non-stereotypical way. You didn’t have to be a fashion student or a pundit to say, oh wow, now isn’t this great? Men and women with good taste, with an affinity for handwoven garments, would, in all probability, connect with these clothes.
Born and raised in Rohtak, Haryana, Jai Gupta, who studied at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi and then at the Chelsea College of Arts in London, has held on to a guardedly cynical view of fashion since he debuted in 2010.
He is distracted by the abstract and keeps bringing up artsy references while explaining his work. He is stirred by Issey Miyake and shaken by Rajesh Pratap Singh. This collection, says his note, “started with American travel and art photographer Trey Ratcliff’s images from Tokyo”. A handloom purist who has done some compelling work in the past (both with drapes and with weaving) but nothing that could be rated as seminal, Jai Gupta needed an inflection point. One that would give his process-filled handloom experiments a definite map. That would also enable his customers and critics to gauge him better. Mumuksha has filled that gap.
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