Differentiating between a powerloom or a handloom weave from afar, Gaurav Jai Gupta – the designer behind Akaaro, is all set to take advantage of his archival ground-breaking samples for creating conscious fashion trends. At an impressionable age when most are interested in music and photography, he went along with his friends to NIFT, New Delhi and enrolled himself without giving it a second thought. That Fashion Design and Information Technology foundation course offered a combination of graphics, design and fashion. But unlike others, his final year submission resulted in engineered textile swatches.
Being a man with an unconventional thought process he chose B.A. Honours in Woven Textiles at Chelsea College of Arts, London. There his teacher Lorna Bircham, who is currently the Course Director for MA Textile Design at Chelsea, was known for exploring environmental impact of textiles across their whole lifecycle which includes low-impact dyes, low-launder/use phase and the re-use of materials. She inculcated in him all this and more like pleating and logically creating visually appealing textiles.
Thereafter to find his niche, the young man took to writing for the design lab at Central Saint Martins and debuted with a textile brand at Origin: the London Craft Fair in 2007.
But his calling dawned on him when the five senses awakened with a tactile fabric, bringing handloom in the forefront for experimenting in small batches. Kingi was one such innovation – a lengthy research done mainly between 2008-2010. In Spring Summer 2014 it was launched with commercial success, so in 2015 two more silhouettes were added. By 2016 with a faster technique Gupta went all out and added more colourways.
It is locally procured pure silk and cotton with spandex fibre lycra or hightwist cotton yarn, which is uniquely handloomed for a revolutionary material. Doing a mental floss he realizes the only thing truly Indian about the cloth is the soul of a weaver (primarily his and Gopal Basak- the weaver’s at his studio), who guided him through weaving practicalities for larger quantities. The weave is both handwoven and manufactured on a jacquard loom with design intervention. Woven on a 48 inch warp the end product dramatically shrinks to 16 inches, just like in felting. Being stretchable and bouncy in nature due to a permanent inbuilt pleat like structure, it is wrinkle-free even after handwash and feels soft on the skin. These attributes make it perfect for figure flattering outfits, which are light, flowy and more importantly for any body type.
Many versions were tried. The same technique when applied to wool seemed heavy while in steel it contracted, producing an unbearable sheen. Being a student of woven textiles his inspirations have been Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake and revolutionary Japanese weaver Junichi Aria’s ground-breaking industrial textiles. Initially he felt like he was groping in the dark while he spent long hours at the NIFT library, importing samples of steel yarn from America in 2002 etc. But in hindsight those exercises have not been in vain, as he now stands tall in India with futuristic fabrics.
Take notice the creative uses hand loom to build ultramodern cloth, which offers him the luxury to construct meditatively which is such an anachronism! In this entire process he perceived each master weaver to create a signature weave which is his or unique to him. On the loom they could also stop midway to change the design to an extent; adding human value to the cloth.
Kingi’s mix of yarns favour resort wear and Springsummer collections. They are a combination of colours and synergies. Pictorally, unusual fibres are intentionally enhanced with pure fabrics for a new, relevant modern aesthetic of the 21st century; syncretic in nature.