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Anubhav Gupta: I don’t like wearing stuffy, slick suits

  • Godrej Properties’ Chief Design Officer, Anubhav Gupta extends his minimal philosophy of designing spaces to his wardrobe
  • He talks about why context in style is important and why India is the best place to collaborate with other creators

Anubhav Gupta in an upcycled jacket
Anubhav Gupta in an upcycled jacket (Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

The first thing I notice in Anubhav Gupta’s cabin at the Godrej One office in Vikhroli, an eastern suburb of Mumbai, is a blue jacket draped on the seat behind the desk. The premises have been designed with a number of green spaces to amble around during lunch hour. Natural light streams into the building, bouncing off its minimal yet functional interiors. But it is the jacket that catches my eye—a patchwork of shades of indigo-dyed Khadi, with white embroidery running from top to bottom.

Gupta tells me it was made by a Pushkar-based label called The Stitching Project. “It has been made from discarded shibori fabric featuring the Japanese patchwork technique of boro," says Gupta.

Anubhav Gupta’s Aviakit vintage bike helmet
Anubhav Gupta’s Aviakit vintage bike helmet (Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)
Anubhav Gupta’s Undercover bird-headed umbrella
Anubhav Gupta’s Undercover bird-headed umbrella (Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)
Anubhav Gupta’s detachable copper spectacles
Anubhav Gupta’s detachable copper spectacles (Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

The chief design officer and business head of Godrej Properties then shows me his custom-made round-rimmed metallic glasses, made of copper. The striking pair seems like an analogy of his role at the company—handling creative and commercial aspects with ease.

The design is simple, but genius in the way that a second magnetically detachable frame separates from the main frame at the hinges, letting Gupta change his look as and when he desires to appear “vintage though also a little steampunk".

The rest of his ensemble is relatively simple. He’s wearing a white linen Mandarin collar shirt, slim-fit jeans with a couple of metal chains hanging end-to-end from its belt-loops, and juttis.

Gupta, who also heads the sustainability and corporate social responsibility functions, talks to Lounge about why context in style is important and why India is the best place to collaborate with other creators. Edited excerpts:

How would you describe your personal style?

It’s comfort-led and simple but I also like incorporating my own quirks. The aesthetic of “artisanal minimalism" is something that attracts me. In terms of tailoring, I like old crafting techniques since they were made to last and have a bias for the vintage aesthetic. I usually wear natural, woven fabrics such as cotton, denim, raw silk and Khadi.

While I admire a lot of designers in different fields, I try to stay away from labels and trends. Whatever I like would have had to stem from a self-assured idea of what I wanted it to be, other than a trend or an influence from the outside.

In India, you can work with artisans, craftspeople, tailors and designers to make something exciting and new. I like to tell stories through what I make. Oftentimes, when I find something which is beautifully made, my first questions would be “who made it?" and “can I please chat with that person?" I want to know the story behind it, and if it’s compelling, I would want to make something with them, together.

I like the idea of taking something contextual, which may have its roots in the old, and using new techniques and technology to incorporate it in the new.

Most designers craft a unique relationship with their working/living space. How does that work for you?

For me, it’s very difficult to distinguish between the clothes I wear or the persona I express, in comparison to the architecture or design I practise. It’s one and the same, influencing each other.

In architecture and design, we believe that you can influence how people behave in that space through the design. I would extend that logic to my style and the objects that constitute it. I wear clothes which share a common language, but as a manifestation it’s about how they make me feel.

As an architect, how important are tailoring and construction in clothes?

The construction and structure of any garment needs to function well. For example, clothes need to be made a certain way to fall properly, in the same way that a building needs to be constructed to stand properly. That would have to factor in the kind of material that’s being worked with and its tolerance to the construction.

There’s also the idea of beauty, which depends upon proportions and the union of different, distinct elements. It must also make the body feel good. In architecture, when two materials come together, it’s called a joint detail. Such details would hold true for garments as well, because stitching is involved.

Many designers and architects use the phrase “clean lines". Does that inform your style?

Clean lines are good to show clarity, but let’s take the example of the Japanese culture, wherein if some ceramic object breaks, they fill the cracks with gold to put it back together (kintsugi), and they aren’t clean, but the idea has that hand-made quality to it.

The blue jacket might not have clean lines but as soon as I put it on, its structure does.

Neither your shirt nor your jacket has spread-out collars...

When my grandfather—a doctor—would buy shirts, all he would do every season was alter its collar and cuffs, without much knowledge of design. By that logic, a shirt designed today—with the resources available—would bear a very different, unique aesthetic.

I don’t like collars at all. I find them very pretentious and stuffy, so I stick to banded ones. A trick I learnt about ready-made shirts is that their collars can be taken off. So whenever I buy them, I go to my tailor, who charges me a nominal fee to have their collars taken off and thinks I am absolutely cuckoo.

What about accessories?

The most extravagant accessory on my body at any time would be my watch. I like collecting and tinkering with them, especially the ones used in the military, as I find them to be very robustly made.

The watch I am wearing at the moment is a vintage “canteen" watch, inspired from the army water bottle of the same name. It was issued during World War II to the navy marines who would go on underwater diving expeditions. The reason it’s made with a sealed crown and gasket is so that no water enters it. Its size allowed for it to be put on top of the marines’ wetsuits. I made it my own by putting a compass on it.

I am also drawn by some upcoming micro-brands since they are reissuing cult-favourite vintage watches.

There are some obscure designs that I like too, such as the regulator watches, which only has one spoke, or the triple date which tells you the time, right from the seconds through to the year.

You have said that you use design as a tool to tell stories.

Clothes tell a personal story. They are windows to my personality; about why I am a certain way, and hence, about my work.

In my sense of dressing, usually one garment would probably be a conversation starter of sorts, such as the watches, glasses, juttis or chains; the glasses were collaboratively made by French and Chinese designers. The watches probably tell the story of how mechanically-oriented I am and like things that are old-school. Over time, the copper in the glasses will oxidize, resulting in some greenish patina on the frames.

Anubhav Gupta’s miniature Brough Superior SS 100 motorcycle
Anubhav Gupta’s miniature Brough Superior SS 100 motorcycle (Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

A Jaipur-based artisan makes these juttis with felt lining inside; it’s an old technique but they are comfortable as they don’t bite. I am also interested in old, vintage bikes, so the chains might probably give me a punkish, badass vibe, but people will still know that I am fairly gentle. All these things help me muck around a little with my style. The rest would be quite simple. I do like my jeans fitted, though.

There’s no difference between my personal or professional style, and I can get away with dressing like this at work since my work is creative. I don’t like wearing stuffy, slick suits.

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