dna I can: Designer Masaba Gupta opens up on her success, mistakes, and lessons she learnt

Sunday, 12 January 2014 - 8:26am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

A lchemising India’s fashion scene with a kitschy fury of quirky prints, Masaba Gupta has clearly emerged as one of the country’s most envy-inducing names. Some write her off as the daughter of the famous parents while others call her the product of the social media but her hawk-like focus remains on her brand, business and most crucially her customers. As the youngest creative director of Satya Paul, she went into the archives of the brand and reinterpreted it with her refreshing twist. With two stores in Mumbai, two in Delhi and one in Kolkata, which is due to open next month, you can definitely not ignore her prêt empire. This year she plans to do a show in Nairobi. She also plans to retail a different label for Pernia Qureshi’s pop-up store.

I meet her at a photo studio located in the hearts of the industrial Lower Parel and I realise that success hasn’t changed her a bit. She is still the same unassuming girl I met at LFW when she had showcased her line in the GenNext category several seasons ago. All you get is a fusillade of honest answers. Thankfully no “please omit that question” or “is it okay if we don’t talk about this…” replies, which others of her ilk like to dictate. In an industry twisted and fatigued by the aggressive PR machineries of designers, her candour is a welcome respite.    

Being the GenNext Sabyasachi
“First, it’s the pricing which has really clicked and I made my debut at a time when there was a need for a fresher and younger take on fashion. Maybe if I would have done it 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have been as big a rage as it is today. Earlier people were far less experimental when it came to fashion. Prêt was never a concept but times have changed,” says the girl who managed to bridge the gap between the Indian handloom textile and modern contemporary silhouette.

Perks of being a Juhu kid
“It was easier for me. Initially there was a large level of curiosity. But once you take the horse to the water, you can’t make it drink. I had to make my work do the talking. I can’t even explain how helpful it is to have someone like Sonam Kapoor believe in your clothes. She is a style icon and the fact she supports me is a huge boost. My saris never sold before. Now she endorses them and wears them frequently and that has changed around differently,” she shares. 

The Masaba copies
“I used to feel bad earlier but then I read a quote by Sabyasachi: ‘The power of a brand lies in the strength of its copy market’. If people think you are a mediocre designer, they’ll never copy your work. The copies have made my brand stronger in reality. We really wondered that sales would suffer but they really shot up because people could tell the difference,” says she with a hint of pride.

Twitter pow wow
A few years ago a politically incorrect Masaba had posted a tweet criticising designers Gauri and Nainika and later she deleted the tweet and her Twitter handle too. When I ask her she remains calm and answers unfazed. “I was very young and new and it was super unfair of me. I apologised not because I didn’t mean what I said but because they are senior designers and I didn’t respect that. I was too young to pass a comment about someone who’s done so much work for so many years.” Recently, one of her contemporaries from Mumbai had tweeted about Masaba copying his designs and then deleted it. “It’s really sad that he said that. This shows no one is paying him attention I guess.” (Laughs)

This shows no one is paying him attention I guess.” (Laughs) 
Do critics really matter? “Puneet Nanda taught me, ‘you not liking this phone cover does not change the phone cover’. I used to get really bothered before but now I have realised it’s not people sitting there passing comments but people coming to stores and buying clothes – those are my critics.”

The youngest director of Satya Paul
“I was really nervous initially till my second show – the demi-couture show. The first show was a huge success and I didn’t know I could keep up. I have never been the kind to sit and think that ‘Satya Paul is a 28-year-old brand and I’m only 25’. My image of the brand was of the young Satya Paul which made beautiful fun saris of the 90s which I saw my mother and her friends buy. I decided to go back to the brand’s history. Once we dug it all out, we decided this is all we need to do but with a new, revised energy.” 

One’s keen to ask her, how much has the success of Satya Paul helped her personal brand? “I feel I have become a much more mature person because it is a corporate structure and you have investors to please. I learnt to be a people’s person. Earlier I used to be very selfish. With my brand I am still like that. It is like an internship for me.”

Partying with the boys
Masaba has got super friendly with designer duo Shivan and Narresh since the past two years. “We all are really crack. They look really cool in their suits but they are quite whackos. This time I told them I’m coming to Goa on a holiday, ‘can you not wear suits?’ They came in ikat shorts and crisp ironed shirts. Work doesn’t come between friendships.”

Single as hell
“I am single as hell. Find me na. (Laughs) I have been single for the last five years,” she maintains. Funnily enough she has been linked me up with both Shivan and Narresh and also designer Anand Bhushan and model Siddharth Rawal. However, she denies all the rumours.

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