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Storytelling Designs

Indian designer Ankur Gupta combines in his latest collection surreal Hinduism, dreams and a touch of irony.

Analysing the painstakingly rich and intricate embroideries, beaded motifs and kaleidoscopic mix of colours that characterise Ankur Gupta’s designs, you realise there is much more than just craftsmanship in this young Indian designer’s creations, there are indeed quite beautiful stories. They may be appliquéd, embroidered, beaded, printed, patchworked together and dusted with Swarovski crystals, but they are one more colourful, moving and funny than the other. In his collection entitled “Ambiguous Desires of a Child”, inspired by three themes - children, dreams and interpretations - Gupta tried to tell amazing stories that combine the surreal side of Hinduism with a healthy dose of humour and irony. One dress that features a yellow school bus surrounded by exotic jungle animals tells the story of a devoted kid who gets lost in the jungle with his friends when their school bus breaks down and gets help from Lord Shiva who kindly pours a bit of water from the River Ganges flowing from his head into the bus carburettor.
A Fashion and Textile graduate from New Delhi’s National Institute of Fashion Technology, Gupta worked as assistant designer with the Swash design team, at Caroline Charles and Manish Arora and was selected as finalist at the renowned Trento-based competition ITS#8 (International Talent Support). The designer is at present considering requests and invitations from fashion houses based in Europe and New York while wishing in future he will be able to work with musicians, film directors, artist and writers and explore new possibilities, combining fashion with innovative collaborations.

Dazed Digital: Your current collection is entitled “Ambiguous Desires of a Child”: when you were a child, what did you want to become?
Ankur Gupta: I guess when I was a child I wished I could be everyone! I have always been a dreamer: I dreamt I could become a pilot, a management guru, a cricketer, a Formula 1 driver and a traveller. When I was 12-13 years old I wished I could become a truck driver because of my interest in travelling, my mum thought I was insane! Interest in designing developed when I was in 7th grade and I would often visit my uncle’s textile factory to see amazing home furnishing and carpets being developed. Later on, when I realised designing was my real passion, I enrolled in a professional school.

DD: Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
Ankur Gupta: Impossibilities! I believe that what spirit desires spirit attains, so my dreams, my mother and success stories about impossibilities inspire me.

DD: Your collection is based on beautiful stories, what inspired them?
Ankur Gupta: The current debate on war, terrorism, bomb blasts, recession and depression made me long for happiness, colours, freedom, children, dreams, excitement and irony. I connected all these themes together, trying to spot humour and surrealism in Hinduism and linking the latter with children’s dreams and adding a healthy dose of irony to it all. The quote ‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child and reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways’, was equally inspiring.

DD: Which was the most difficult garment out of your collection and why?
Ankur Gupta: Each garment had its own share of difficulty in the texture or stitching. It took me a lot of time to develop the “Fish-Matsya” as I had to develop the wave embroidery pattern on the fabric, while the “Dream Machine” was time-consuming, though the most difficult piece was a layered dress that featured 28 differently embroidered panels. In most of my garments fabrics are appliquéd according to the design. Hand and machine embroidery is done over the fabric using different techniques. The garments are also at times embellished with Swarovski elements.

DD: You have mixed kaleidoscopic embroideries, beadwork and Technicolour images with traditions, Pop Art and Hindu surrealism: do you feel you are bridging with your creations the fossilised idea of ethnicity with contemporary design?
Ankur Gupta: Any and every history or heritage is important and I have a very rich one, so I’m lucky enough to be able to mix it with contemporary and futuristic elements and this helps me achieving a sort of interesting mix and overcoming the limits strictly ethnic styles may have. 

DD: Where would you like to showcase your collections one day?
Ankur Gupta: I have been dreaming about Paris for many years but, at the same time, I feel very attached to London for its vibrant fashion scene. There is a lot happening in India in terms of fashion, so showcasing in my country would also be a good idea and an option that I would leave open.

DD: Your designs have a great visual power: would you like to collaborate in future with an artist?
Ankur Gupta: I’d like to work with Kalamkari and Ganjifa artists in India as I love their colourful and intricate paintings, but also with Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst, M.F.Hussain, Terence Koh and Takashi Murakami, and with directors such as Danny Boyle and Meera Nair. I would also love to be able to work with John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. My ultimate ambition is to set up my own brand and make my dreams come true. In future I would like to develop sunglasses, watches, handbags or perfumes. I am already doing shoes but I’m also looking at more options to explore and planning to design a few handbags for the next season.

Model: Anna Klimova (Karma Models Management, India)
Makeup and Hair: Amanender Sidu
Photographer: Roger J Renberg
Styling: Ankur Gupta and Roger J Renberg

Model: Margarita Maggie R
Makeup and Hair: Chandani Singh
Photographer and Styling: As before