Designers Gauri and Nainika Karan launched their eponymous label “Gauri & Nainika” in January 2002 in New Delhi. The brand has come a long way since then and is now being retailed at exclusive boutiques across India and the Middle East.
The two sisters share a common interest in fashion, which led to the creation of an evening-wear brand for women 17 years back. Guardian 20 talked to the designers about their journey and the inspiration behind their designs.
Gauri told us that it wasn’t just their interest in fashion that led to Gauri & Nainika; it was also their shared design philosophy that helped them work towards a common goal. She said, “I think we have always loved fashion and there was a certain design philosophy that we both liked—glamour and femininity. It [this project] was a natural process for us and we knew we wanted to do this. We were sisters, we were inseparable, so it was only appropriate that we start this together.”
Both Gauri and Nainika have completed their professional training in fashion design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi. Right after completing their studies, they started their ready-to-wear label.
Absolutely in sync with each other’s design sensibilities, the sisters feel that they wouldn’t have been able to achieve the success they have if they were not in this together. Nainika said, “We cannot imagine doing this without each other.”
The brand offers styles ranging from cocktail dresses to elaborate bespoke gowns and is inspired by European fashion, art, music, books, personalities, theatre, old Hollywood style and red-carpet glamour. With a strong emphasis on fabric, cut and colour, their designs focus on shape and flattering silhouettes.
The designers are acclaimed for their evening-wear, especially gowns and dresses. But for a new brand to exclusively design and produce evening-wear was a huge risk that Gauri and Nainika took more than a decade back. And while we may think that theirs must have been a tumultuous journey, Gauri told us that their brand has never really struggled. “As we started making gowns, the demand grew. And our brand made that shift in the market as well, and it was gratifying to see that,” she said.
Their designs and fashion sensibility have also been inspired by their mother. As Gauri said, “Our mother has been an inspiration, she is our rock. She has always been poised and confident…”
Another big inspiration to them has been the British actress Audrey Hepburn. Nainika said, “The ruffles and glamour in My Fair Lady won our hearts early on.”
The designers have made gowns and dresses for leading Bollywood actresses, like Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone, Sonakshi Sinha, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Parineeti Chopra among others. When we asked them about their favourite celebrity to work with, Nainika said, “It is very hard to say who our personal favourite is. We have dressed many and it has been a privilege. Everyone is glamorous and beautiful in their own way.”
For Gauri, inclusivity in fashion is all about breaking the mould and setting personal goals. She said, “Inclusivity has been important now all over the world and we feel it is great because you could be any size or colour. Anyone can carry off anything if you are confident and bold. It’s about breaking the preconceived notions of what is beautiful.”
About their creative process and what inspires them to come up with something new with each collection, Nainika said, “I think the idea is to just go with what you are feeling at the moment, which is something that comes from within. You evolve with the times, incorporate trends. Music, films, travel: anything can inspire you.”
The duo is now all set to showcase their latest collection at the Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2019’s finale. They also hosted a special preview of their designs on 13 August at their store in Delhi.
Talking about the finale scheduled for 25 August, Sunday, Gauri said, “Our inspiration is Lakme’s theme, #FreeYourLips. We were thrilled when Lakme approached us for the grand finale. We were excited about the concept. The theme is all about lightness and freedom of expression and independence. It represents the strong woman. And that is the energy that you will see in our collection as well.”