Merging her love for colour that comes from her father’s Caribbean inheritance with her mother’s DIY one-of-a-kind clothes, Masaba Gupta has made a bold imprint on the world’s fabric
Masaba Gupta was a tomboy as a kid when it came to her dressing sense — “I was always in my Nikes, tank top, tracks and jacket. When I had to go to Indian functions, however, I just had to buy raw silk material and make my own anarkalis and saris, because I never liked what was available off the rack.”
That “make your own clothes” streak she inherited from DIY actor-mom Neena Gupta, has brought Masaba on a long explorative journey, and she now dresses Bollywood actors in her kitschy saris and feminine dresses.
Daughter of West Indian cricketing legend Sir Vivian Richards and Neena, the 25-year-old Masaba, often referred to sensationally in the 1990s as their “love child”, was recently in Bangalore’s The Bombay Attic for her first exhibition.
The trunk show featuring the House of Masaba collection from over the years ranged from stitched saris, lace-trimmed dresses, jackets, woollen scarves and socks. “No one in Bangalore has ever invited me before for an exhibition,” she complains when asked what took her so long to come to this city, considering she started off her designing career in 2009.
And she brought a little bit of everything because she believes Bangalore’s fashionistas are unpredictable. Her fans in Bangalore turned up in large numbers on a Sunday morning, many wearing her trademark boldly-printed creations. While I’m looking among the throng of women for this girl with wild loose tresses, Masaba emerges from the crowd, all lady-like in black, wearing her own flowing rose-print creation, hair all reined into a bun.
She also brought to Bangalore her Masaba Lite line. “It’s a cheaper line. I discovered we have copies of my prints selling in the market. We can’t fight it, but we can fix it.” So pricing is the key to not being plagiarised? “Pricing is everything. You can have the best of designs and fabric. But if people don’t think it’s worth it…” she trails off. “You need to balance the commercial aspect and the art.”
While she insists she doesn’t feel market pressure, she’s now stepping into bridal wear, something she’d been avoiding all along. “I just finally feel I’ve found something that may work. Given a choice I would dress a bride up in white and black, which, I know is not right in Indian culture. But this Spring/Summer 2015 I will be working on a bridal trousseau collection which will be kitschy, but low on embroidery.”
Masaba’s known for her bold kitschy prints and bight colours. “Yes, I am print attached,” she shrugs when asked why she loves prints. She started off in 2009 with palm prints on her creations, inspired by the impressions of her own hand her mom had taken at various stages of childhood and framed. Then came her mom’s footprints. It was by trial and error and it worked, claims Masaba, at a time when everyone was looking the same. She admits her design influences come at a subconscious level from the two diverse cultures she inherited from her parents.
“I merge my love for colour and Ikkat. I grew up around what dad said about Caribbean culture and mom’s Indian handlooms. She would buy fabric and cut it up and add her own ideas to it. So I always wanted to do patchwork…it was a part of me.”
Just as the world sees her parents’ relationship as unconventional, so does Masaba.
“But I don’t want it any other way,” says the candid young lady. “It was because of who they were and the way I was brought up that I felt I was special and not part of the crowd. I’m far less judgemental, and far more open to various cultures, people, and relationships. If they were conventional, safe guys, I would be one too, and I wouldn’t have a life story to tell.”