The Designer Whose Swoops, Whorls and Waves Ruled the Red Carpet

Awards season, as we all know, is actually gown season. Save for the perennial winners and losers lists, most people are simply keeping an eye out for who wore what.

When several versions of a specific design start appearing on different celebrities waltzing down red carpets, look around: You’re in a moment. This awards season, that moment belonged to the Indian designer Gaurav Gupta.

In early February, Cardi B walked down the Grammys red carpet wearing a cobalt blue dress that wrapped around her waist in a wave pattern and dramatically made its way over her shoulders and hooded around her head. The dress was designed by Mr. Gupta, 44, who started his namesake label in 2004.

This month, Quinta Brunson, the star and creator of the hit sitcom “Abbott Elementary,” hosted the Billboard Women in Music awards ceremony wearing a structured Gaurav Gupta design the color of café au lait. The actress Jenna Ortega wore another one of his cobalt blue creations in a promotional photo for last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live.”

And on Sunday, the actress Michaela Jaé Rodriguez wore a whimsical design by Mr. Gupta, in classic black, to the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s Oscars viewing party. (Mr. Gupta’s distinctive style led more than a few people to speculate online that he was behind the Nigerian singer Tems’s Oscars ceremony outfit, but the gown was actually Lever Couture.)

Mr. Gupta describes the aesthetic of some of his creations as “future primitive,” since you could easily imagine them “in a costume fantasy movie or a futuristic fantasy movie.”Credit…Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images

Mr. Gupta is used to dressing celebrities like Kylie Minogue, Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo and Priyanka Chopra. But this is the first year the designer was invited to show on the Paris couture schedule, 20 years after the creation of his line.

“It is really a dream come true,” Mr. Gupta said from his atelier in Delhi. “It was a fantastic experience and it has been really magical, the last two years for us. I think it was just one thing leading to the other.”

In the edited interview below, Mr. Gupta talks about his inspirations, the upside of boredom and more.

How does it feel to have your designs be embraced by Hollywood this year?

It has been really cool. It’s been amazing fun and an exhilarating experience, too, to work with these people. It just made natural sense to ride on the high that the brand has been getting globally because of all of these cultural collaborations.

Could you speak more about the inspiration for your designs?

A lot of my clothes have an aesthetic that we describe as “future primitive” because you could literally take any of these costumes and imagine them in a costume fantasy movie or a futuristic fantasy movie as well. What we are trying to do is create a new fantasy universe altogether, and give people that feeling of freedom and fantasy and surrealism. That construction is something that’s very indigenous to the brand. I don’t live in any boxes.

Cardi B arriving at the Grammy Awards in February wearing Gaurav Gupta.Credit…Jordan Strauss/Invision, via Associated Press
Quinta Brunson at Billboard Women in Music 2023 this month …Credit…Christopher Polk/Billboard, via Getty Images
… and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez at Elton John’s Oscar party this week.Credit…Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Elton John AIDS Foundation

How much does being from India influence your designs?

It’s made me believe in deeper concepts. I love the maths and the science and the ancestry and philosophy of India more than the obviousness of India. For example, the collection which you saw in Paris Couture Week is called Shunya. Shunya is a Sanskrit word for zero.

I think with the discovery of zero, it was almost like a celebration of the dark and light of the yin and the yang and everything coming together just expanded the human scape of imagination. I was subliminally trying to get into that philosophy and have our own interpretation of that concept, which kind of went from zero to infinity.

The brand is almost 20 years old. How do you stay innovative?

The innovation comes out of boredom. It’s just as simple as that. I’m bored of the same shapes and the same colors. I’m just doing my thing and being playful, and it just happens.

What is your favorite part of collaborating with some of these celebrities?

I think that what is so interesting is when I combine with some of these people, something new happens as well. That’s what I mean by a cultural conversation, because they are so ready to experiment. Lizzo is like, nuclear: She is on the edge, and she is the perfect icon of today. She literally changed a universal subconscious.

There is a playful aspect about you that is visible in your designs. How does that translate into the fabrics?

I am playful all the time. I think I’ve just become that person over time. And I’m just myself all the time: Even if I’m home, I’m at work, I’m traveling, I’m most myself. If I’m in the middle of a forest or if I’m diving under the ocean. A lot of my inspiration comes from abstract clouds or the movements of the waves, looking at the moon or just digging my feet in some soil in the forest. I’m very elemental, and the elements don’t have any specific shapes and forms.

How do you want people to feel in your pieces?

Just a sense of freedom. A sense of light and infinity, is what I want people to feel. It is amazing when people are able to feel infinite and know that everything is infinite and in that there is freedom. That is what the design presents. Like shunya: zero infinity.

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