Monday, Aug 08, 2022

I Was An Outsider, Not Conventionally Good-Looking Skinny Girl: Masaba Gupta

Masaba Gupta opened up about her journey as a designer, her excitement on completing 12 years, self-love, and much more.

The idea behind 'House Of Masaba' is to make women believe that they can overcome this fear: Masaba Gupta

Trust fashion designer and actor Masaba Gupta to whisk you into her realm of kaleidoscopic prints with her bold and catchy designs. The designer’s signature pop colours and kitschy motifs—from cows to candy—have managed to find a way to the wardrobes of many.

Being somebody who grew up being viewed as ‘different’ in school because of her size and strength, Masaba Gupta opened up about her journey as a designer, her excitement on completing 12 years, self-love, and much more. Excerpts:

On House of Masaba completing 12 years…

I think 12 years in fashion have been very exciting. I couldn’t have asked for a better journey. One thing that sticks out is that it has been 12 years of non-stop learning. As an entrepreneur, as a brand, as long as I am learning, all the mistakes are worth it. A lot of people forget that I didn't do any internship or worked under any designer, so my brand is a mix of trial and error. I take a lot of pride in that. We were a very young team, and we still are a very young team. I was very young when we started. So, whatever I have learned, I have learned on the job and adapted very quickly. I have used my brand very effectively and, at the same time, creating a brand that is free from who I am as a person. Today people recognise it because there is a signature to it. It has been stressful, exciting, and, at the same time, very rewarding, but it hasn't been easy. But there is nothing I would change about the journey.

Inspiration behind the House of Masaba…

When I started the House of Masaba, I didn't think of having a brand. All I thought was I have done a show and have touched a note with some women who can be the consumers. People not just liked but also acknowledge the product. Masaba was what it was called for the longest time. The House of Masaba came much later when I decided I want it to be a lifestyle brand and I would not limit it to just clothes. I started this brand because I thought there was a gap in the market where Indian designer-wear wasn’t comfortable, statement-making, and affordable. There was a serious gap back then in everyday wear. Indian designers were reserved for occasions and marriages. That was my plan to have a very proud Indian label that spoke for itself and was not intimidating. That was a legacy brand that would go on for years and years after.

Pandemic and sale…

Pandemic made us even stronger as a brand. Of course, all the physical stores took a hit. You have to differentiate between what is the mistake you have made and what is God's plan. It is something that I identified as the latter. Imagine that there is a factory running and somebody pulls a plug on it. But we thrived in the e-commerce space. And that was amazing because we never thought we will be such a strong brand in an online space. We quickly made the change of becoming a mix of online and offline. We worked on making our online store much stronger. The first six months were tough. We are at the strongest today even with our stores working with half capacity.

Reason behind using quirky and bold motifs…

I don't plan my designs in a manner that should be out of the box or quirky or bold. I just make them with the idea that comfort comes first. Comfort is a new luxury. When I plan my clothes, I think a woman who is 16, a woman who is 65, and a lady who is in her late forties, all of these people should find something in the brand. The idea is to make it more and more inclusive. It should be fitting for all body types. It should not be something that people are intimated by. We also have something different from other Indian designers to offer. So, in that sense, we are a very culturally rooted brand... Now that we are a strong brand in retail, I make sure that the clothes are a good mix of art and commerce. Something that is commercial and is also good enough to fit in the fashion space.

Future plans and working on price factor…

I don't have any thoughts yet about working on pricing to target college girls. I think there are other ways to target them – Most likely in other products like cosmetics or workout wear. That's how we will reach out to young girls. We will target them through our e-commerce friendly brand, which will be much more affordable.

On being vocal about body positivity and ensuring the same with her brand…

I think body positivity is a very loosely used term. I know in movies; people talk about body positivity but touch up every part of the body when they do a photo shoot. It is very easy today to lie about body positivity, call yourself a flag bearer or a fighter for body positivity. The one thing which we did with our brand was the make sure that any campaign we do we will do with multiple types of women in the frame. So, there will be a woman with a darker shade slightly bigger or a woman with fair skin who thinks that she has an awkward nose but we find her beautiful nonetheless or there will be somebody who is in her late sixties who is aging and doesn't feel very connected to fashion. So, the thing is body positivity is not just about shape and size, it is also about feeling. And, I think with women, the struggle with body positivity is more of a mental hurdle to pass as opposed to a physical one. Even with my makeup, I make sure that I don't photoshop my skin to an extent that it is unrecognisable. It is really important to be recognised for my flaws. I hope that tomorrow because of me and my brand, women can recognise, acknowledge, and appreciate themselves with their flaws. Even with me, it always feels good when you have lost weight. The idea is to find a balance when you are not feeling your best but you project your best at that time. My brand is very inclusive. I am a super-inclusive person. Because I have always been an outsider, not a conventionally good-looking skinny girl. So, I have fought for body positivity by changing people’s perceptions of me, by helping them understand that my work is what makes me and not who I am or how I look.

On ‘Masaba Masaba’ Season 2…

It is is bigger and better. It is deeper.

On self-love…

Self-love to me means loving on days off. On days when you are not really in the mood of loving yourself or you are having a bad day. Self-love to me is a constant journey, it is an everyday job. It's like brushing your teeth every day in the morning. If you don't do it every single day then there will be an accumulation and you will just burst one day. It is an everyday job. It is an inside job and cannot come from the outside factor. If you think that outside validation uplifts your self-love then that is the most wrong way to approach it. Self-love should be irrespective of everything happening outside of your world. I don't think I am a 100% fearless, self-assured woman. I do have my days offs. I do have days where I think about what could I have done better or if I could have done more. Fear is a feeling that I feel very often. I feel it when I am doing very well or when something has been a success. I feel it all the time. The idea is to make women believe that they can overcome this fear.

What’s next?

The House of Masaba is something that has my focus, my 500 per cent. In the next 4 to 5 years, we have grand plans for the brand. We are not going to stop at just clothing. The idea is to become a 360-degree lifestyle brand but we are taking baby steps. Not trying to be too ambitious because we have to be cautious about the fact that the pandemic is still around. We have to make smart choices but we have to keep moving forward. In terms of ambition, we plan to expand our product catalogue and grow into multiple spaces. We are no longer that boutique brand that does just prints. Now we are really in the mood to spread our wings, in different categories and enter spaces where Indian designers have not gone before. We grew 500 times in the commerce space this year. The plan is to take that up many notches higher. The plan is to expand in the digital space. The plan is to grow the company and the turnover at least 2 to 3 times in the next two years.