Synonymous with an aesthetic that is distinctly feminine and European, Gauri & Nainika Karan’s eponymous label has come to be regarded as the connoisseur for eveningwear styles ranging from glamorous cocktail dresses to elaborate bespoke gowns.
Founded in New Delhi in January 2004, the label quickly rose to fame owing to its sensuous take on elegant and chic clothing for the women of today. Inspired by European fashion history, art, music, books, personalities, theatre, old Hollywood, red carpet glamour and pictures of the Founder’s mother from the ’70s, the brand pivots a romantic design philosophy with styles that are luxurious yet understated.
Over the years, the brand has undergone quite a few changes, but yet, the essence has remained. At the outset, the designer duo used to cater to a younger cohort of women but as the designers themselves evolved, so did their business – having expanded to embrace a wider demographic and audience.
Commenting on the same, Nainika Karan, Founder and Designer of Gauri & Nainika, told Apparel Resources (AR) in an exclusive interview, “We have always had a weakness for old world glamour and for creating clothes that are extremely feminine. Gauri and I understand the female form and we have always designed silhouettes that flatter them. The essence of our brand has always been to create timeless clothes of excellent quality in luxurious fabrics. The embroidery is minimal and the emphasis is more on the cut, fabrics and bold colours.”
Both Gauri and Nainika being bureaucrats, their parents were keen on them finishing their education in Economics prior to pursuing fashion as a career choice. Gauri completed her MBA, post which both sisters went to NIFT, Delhi together, to familiarise themselves with the workings of design. “We opened up our label immediately after completing our education. At the time we started, we did not work under any fashion label or designer as all of them mostly created Indianwear, and we were keen to create glamorous westernwear which was not available in Delhi or around India at that point of time,” Nainika explained.
The label has operated as a small team with Gauri and Nainika being the only designers and not having a ‘design team’ per say. The main manufacturing unit is located in New Delhi with both the production and manufacturing being entirely done in-house under the watchful eyes of the enigmatic sister duo.
USP, PRICING AND PRODUCT ASSORTMENT
With a strong emphasis on fabric, cut and colour, Gauri & Nainika’s designs focus on shape, form and flattering silhouettes. By combining tailoring with drapery, the garments are meticulously crafted and have a timeless appeal where old world charm, fantasy and elegance are brought bang up to date to suit the sensibilities of today’s customers.
Femininity forms the essence of the label where the paradoxical combination of drama and subtlety can be seen in the event’s simplest styles.
Essentially a cocktailwear and eveningwear brand, the prices at Gauri & Nainika label range from Rs.15,000 for tops to Rs.5,00,000 for bespoke gowns, depending upon the material and level of craftsmanship involved.
The product categories consist of tops, jumpsuits, midis, dresses, rompers and gowns for women, while the pricing for dresses, midis and jumpsuits usually range between Rs.40,000 to Rs. 80,000. For the more dramatic high lows and gowns, the prices are higher.
MANUFACTURING AND SOURCING
“We have always worked with a wide range of fabrics. Amongst pure silk, we have worked with silk chiffon, silk georgette, silk crepe, duchess satin and taffeta sourced from either China or Bengaluru. We also have worked with polyester fabrics which are sourced from Surat in India or imported from China and South Korea,” Nainika corroborated.
When it comes to sourcing for raw materials and fabrics, India is famous globally, for its local markets and hubs. A few areas that Gauri & Nainika usually source their raw materials and fabrics from are Chandni Chowk and Lajpat Nagar in New Delhi or Surat and Bengaluru.
The label comes out with four season-based collections within a year namely, Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter, Resort and Pre-Fall. Each season features three drops. In addition to this, their online stock is order-based and in-store stock is replenished with new arrivals every new season with different drops.
Coveted both locally and domestically, the label stocks its products at multiple platforms both in India and internationally, including – AZA, Ensemble, Collage, ETA, Elahe, Atosa, PSL, Evoluzione, Darusha and S Style Group. The products are also available to shop online at AZA, PSL and Carmaonlie and the brand hopes to expand into the international market in the coming future.
Here are some more excerpts from the interview.
AR: What is the one valuable lesson/skill you learnt while running a successful westernwear dominant fashion business in the Indian landscape that you wish you’d known prior to starting the label?
Nainika Karan (NK): One of the most important things that we have learnt over the years is that one has to design for all women body types whether apple, pear, glass figure or a plus-size body type, as designers Gauri and I understand what women want. Over the years, experiences have taught us what women want to actually wear and that will suit them. This is something that can only come with experience and interaction with the clients. We are very glad that we include today a wide variety of silhouettes in every shape and size and that is a skill which we have learnt over the years in business.
AR: What is one thing that the Indian consumer desires that western brands are able to provide but Indian homegrown brands struggle with?
NK: A lot of bigger western brands are able to provide really good pret and casualwear ranging from athleisure, shoes to accessories etc. In comparison, it’s difficult for Indian homegrown brands to manage production of high quality because of the lack of economies in their favour and infrastructure. This is one factor that Indian brands struggle with – to create a range of products that go with their clothes and complement their brand philosophy. We do not have the quantity to be able to make this in the best possible way.
AR: What, according to you, is driving consumption in fashion categories in the Indian market?
NK: The bridal market is the biggest driving consumption for the Indian market followed by the number of festivities we have in our country.