When did you realise that you look different? Was it tough to deal with?
Well, I wasnt okay with it for years. In school, I had frizzy hair always tied in a bun, I had acne, braces and since I played tennis, I was very athletic. You can say that I wasnt exactly very feminine. All my friends were fair and thin with lovely hair they would leave open. No one gave me attention and I was not considered the right body type. Things began to change after school. I became more girlie and got comfortable with myself. This started showing. Now I am glad with the way I look. I may not be conventional looking — fair with a thin nose — but I have my own charm and personality. Its important to know that.
Did having famous parents increase the pressure?
No. Earlier people used to say that I am this celebrity kid doing fashion week. None of my parents were designers so they couldnt compare our work. People came to see my show with zero expectations and I surprised them!
Has being Neena Guptas daughter helped your career graph?
Well, yes. In terms of career graph, being so popular so quickly, being her daughter helped. So I would say it is 80 per cent my work and 20 per cent being Neena Guptas daughter.
Was acting ever an option?
Of course, years ago when all the kids wanted to be actresses I wanted to do so too! But seriously, it was only an area of interest but never a career option. I have been practical about it. I knew I wouldnt be suitable.
Can you recall that one moment when you thought that you had made the right decision?
It was right after my debut show at LFW in the Gen Next section. The response I got after my show was pretty positive. It is then that I knew I made the right career decision. People in any case take a while to warm up to new designs. I showed something bold and fresh. If people liked that then I knew I did something right.
I have to mention here that I owe my career to Wendell Rodricks. It is he who discovered I could be a good designer. I will make at least one collection that will be both inspired by him and dedicated to him.
What did you do with your prize money of one lakh that came with the INIFD award for most promising designer last year?
Well, I put it into my next collections. Some of it went to create the summer-resort line for Lakme Fashion Week and some went to the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week collection.
Your collections have a very made-in-Calcutta feel…
Yes! Everyone tells me that. In fact, some of the sari motifs are inspired by Bengal. For example, the Kali Ma design.
Most of your favourite designers also happen to be from Calcutta…
I love Anamika Khanna for her constant experimentation and Sabyasachi Mukherjee for his approach to fashion. I also like Kallol Datta because he is fearless and genuine. He does his own thing and that too so well!
Your work always has a strong sense of modern India. Whether its ikkat shorts or nose rings or bright Indian colours…. What is it about India that inspires you most?
You know, actually, ever since I was a kid and used to travel I started noticing small things. Right outside my building, there are many villagers who live in the slums. They dont have the money to buy a matching blouse so they used to pick up pieces of fabric and do a patchwork blouse with stitchline details. They would carry off a purple sari with a florescent green blouse! I too believe in making do with what I have.
As young designers it is important to focus on India. At the same time we dont have to go all ethnic and overdo the gota and zardosi! There is so much we can do with weaves and also village embroideries. I am one of the few young designers to do saris, albeit with pockets! Thats the thing about my clothes — they are so age-versatile. A mom and daughter can walk into my store and pick up things from the same collection.
Do you have any designs on Bollywood?
That would be my next step. I am actually quite difficult to work with. I know how to work in Bollywood. The producer and director have a look in mind, then there are star tantrums. The designers dont get a creative call. I wouldnt like that. I dont want them to hire me to just pick up stuff from Linking Road. I would want to put my brain into it.
If you had to pick a Bollywood brand ambassador for your label, who would it be?
Sonam Kapoor. She carries off anything. She is effortlessly stylish. She has an old-world charm mixed with a chic look.
Do you post-mortem your work?
I actually do a pre-mortem! I make a lot of samples and then do the alterations. I always have back-ups ready. Once I am done with the pieces, I dont stress about it. Its not worth it.
Your first LFW collection vs the second…
The first collection was Kattran. I was very excited then, so I used every idea, every colour! I did what I wanted to but it was very wearable and I sold most of it.
Chhaini, the second one, was definitely more mature. I was strategic about using colours. There was more structure. WIFW was a step further.
How have you managed to stay away from sequins and Swarovski?
Sequins and Swarovski are not tempting at all. I could make 15,000 with one single outfit instead of three if I would fall into the shiny trap but its not enough incentive to let go of my aesthetics. I believe you can be either a good designer or a greedy designer and very rarely can you be both.
Now that you have become quite an insider, what is your perception of the Indian fashion industry?
Dont get too close. Dont take it too seriously. Or you will start compromising and the fake will be there for all to see.
What is a typical day like?
I wake up at 9am, go to my office, which is in the same building, by 11. I work till 2pm and then take a lunch break. After work, in the evening I go to dance class. Then its home to watch TV, dinner and discuss the day with my mom. Sometimes I go out with my friends to catch coffee or a movie.
You have been quoted saying that you have learnt not to trust anyone…. Isnt it too serious for a 21-year-old?
Yes. People thought I was deranged when that came out! My mom and dad have never sat me down and said you are a star kid or dont trust anyone. It is just my understanding, that too from a young age. My father had only one friend who is no more. Even I know a lot of people but have only one or two friends. Even my mom had two friends who stood by her through time — Satish Kaushik and Medha Jalota. The industry is full of flaky people. And I have always understood that. Even Shah Rukh Khan has said in a documentary that he has a couple of real friends.
Are you okay with so much media attention regarding your parents?
Earlier I was okay with it considering that was my only claim to fame. People were like… shes young, lets talk to her. Her parents have never spilled the beans, maybe she will. But I had nothing to talk about. Whatever had to be said about my mom and me, dad and me and mom and dad had been said for so many years. But how much can you talk about it?
Are you in touch with your dad?
And do you get along with your step-dad (Vivek Mehra)?
Of course! I see him often now that he works a lot from Mumbai.
Date of birth
Strongest Scorpion trait
Very aggressive. “Also intelligence because I believe Scorpions are supposed to be very brainy.”
Jamnabai Narsee School, Mumbai
S.N.D.T. (Final year of Apparel Manufacture and Design Diploma course)
Garment you designed
A hideous yellow and green salwar kameez for my school dandiya function back in the VIII standard.
Was from Shiamak Davar in 2006 for performing at the Commonweath Games in Australia. In fact, Shiamak is largely responsible for me being who I am today.
A guy called Vikrant
I buy too many things. I love my shoe collection, I have many shoes but none are very expensive.
Colour you fell in love with
TIME you wore a sari
Teachers Day, standard X
TIME YOU designed for mom
When I was about 18 years old. It was a sari.
Oh my god! It was the World Cup in England many many years ago. My dad was doing the commentary and I was asleep in the box!
Film/book that inspired you
Its a book called Every Second Counts