Gauri and Nainika Karan, the founders and designers of Gauri & Nainika label have been pushing the envelope of Indian contemporary wear with their floral designs that are frequently spotted on the red carpet. The designer duo talks to Travel + Leisure India & South Asia about the birth of their design sensibilities, finding inspiration in Europe, and the evolving fashion landscape in India.
Excerpts from the interview with Gauri & Nainika:
T+L India: How do you describe your journey ever since you launched Gauri & Nainika label?
Gauri: We launched our label in 2004 and next year marks the 20th anniversary. It’s been a very exciting journey, and we’ve been growing organically over the years. The brand is matured as have we. We love what we do and it has been constantly exciting.
T+L India: Your designs are very feminine and often incorporate a lot of florals. Where do you seek inspiration?
Gauri: We’ve grown up with our parents being very involved with gardening. One of our biggest inspirations has been the movie My Fair Lady. Now, we both love gardening, and that also influences us.
Nainika: We’ve done floral prints that are inspired by so many things like paintings of Monet, our mother’s garden, photographs that we’ve taken, or old botanical illustrations. In one collection, we completely focussed on how bougainvillea grows and we did a lot of 3D appliqué and texturisation. In 2010, we did a collection that incorporated gigantic 3D roses.
T+L India: What sparked your interest in the European design philosophy?
Gauri: I think it’s the movies we watched growing up, we loved the clothes there. Vintage glamour is something that continues to inspire us and we feel like there’s nothing like it. For our creations, we like taking something and giving it a contemporary feel, but retaining the lady-like high-octane, extremely elegant, feminine glamour which was there in the 1950s.
T+L India: What are your bucket list destinations in Europe?
Gauri: All of Europe is so beautiful. I haven’t been to Prague; I would love to go there.
Nainika: I would love to visit Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and I would also love to see the Northern Lights.
T+L India: Which is your favourite fashion destination?
Nainika: I think when it comes to fashion, there’s nothing like Paris. We’ve been to Paris a few times together where we’re just walking around, just completely mesmerised with the beauty of the city and the fashion, and the beautiful stores. Everything is so romantic.
T+L India: What can you say about the fashion landscape in India?
Gauri: India has changed dramatically, especially in the last 10 years. You’ve got all the fast fashion brands that have brought about a huge change in the way people dress.
Nainika: Everyone’s style is evolving; it’s becoming more modern and interesting. Fashion is becoming more creative; you can literally wear anything now. You know, men can wear dresses. So, there’s really no limit now.
T+L India: Sometimes the opinions of two people can differ. How do you accommodate the differences in the creative process?
Nainika: Luckily, Gauri and I don’t have so many differences, especially when it comes to the creative process, we both trust each other a lot and we’re always inspired by the same things because we’ve grown up together.
But we also bring different elements to the table, like Gauri has a very sophisticated eye, it’s very timeless, feminine, and romantic. I like things a little bolder, fun, young, boho and dramatic, and these always create a nice mix.
T+L India: How does travel influence you as a designer?
Nainika: Travel is one of our biggest inspirations. Once we were sitting in a cafe in Santorini and there was a napkin or paper tablecloth that had a beautiful print. We took it home and did a full collection out of that print. Stuff like this always happens especially with art, embroideries, or tapestries.
T+L India: Is there a place that you have both felt very connected to?
Gauri: I think we just both love Paris. Every time we’ve gone there, we just get astounded by its beauty.
Nainika: Yeah, looking at those fashion houses that we’ve just grown up loving is just awe inspiring, like the original Chanel store, or Christian Dior store which has been standing there for like 80 or 100 years.
T+L India: What is the one destination that comes to your mind when you hear ‘Travel As You Are’?
Gauri: Goa comes to my mind immediately when I hear the word. What I love about going to Goa is that you can be in your T-shirts and your shorts and be relaxed. You can be as you are, you don’t have to worry, you can switch off your phone completely and go anywhere, even at night.
T+L India: What are your travel essentials?
Gauri: My trainers; can’t do without them, sunblock, good jacket, sunglasses, and pair of jeans, you can just wear them anytime.
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