By Sujata Assomull Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Seriously, these sister fashion designers from India have amazing taste. As I combed through the countless dresses that all the big celebrities are wearing, I fell in love with their old Hollywood Glam style. Empowering women to look smart, sophisticated and beautiful...Gauri and Nainika have the right touch.
It's been over 12 years since the Delhi-based sisters Gauri and Nainika Karan started their label. These two petite siblings, who come from a privileged background, seemed to be living in a fantasy world. Their finish was impeccable, their fabrics full of finesse, and their dresses replete with elegant drama, but the question was "Who is going to wear their designs?"
Their style seemed too Western for Indian women back then. And if desi ladies were going to spend on evening gowns, they would prefer a Valentino, Oscar de La Renta or Marchesa, not a home grown label. But the girls were oblivious to the critics and stuck to their style. Says Gauri, "To us, our styles are the epitome of feminine elegance. No matter what anyone said, we stuck to this belief and worked towards creating a brand that spelled that. We grew up inspired by the master couturiers of the 50s, and they continue to influence our work. As far as critics being lukewarm: we try to see where it's coming from, reflect on that, and both ignore/understand from some."
Princess dresses were and have always been a core part of their label. It was just as well, as Gauri and Nainika are now India's first ladies of the red carpet. Nearly every A-list celebrity in India has worn a Gauri and Nainika, be it Madhuri Dixit or Priyanka Chopra. And their appeal is not limited to the subcontinent alone; American singers Carrie Underwood and Tory Kelly have both worn a Gauri and Nainika on the red carpet at the Grammys in recent years.
To this red carpet A-list, the designer sisters have added a few more important names. TV presenter and host of E!'s Fashion Police, Giuliana Rancic, wore a Gauri and Nainika to the recent edition of the Screen Actors Guild awards; last weekend, Oscar nominee Tom Hardy's wife, actress Charlotte Riley, also chose to wear the brand to the awards ceremony. Riley's lace black gown, with a deep V neckline and ball gown skirt, ensured she stole all the attention away from her Mad Max-star husband.
The sisters credit social media for connecting and carrying the brand forward. But there is no question that their take on eveningwear has carved itself a very beautiful niche. While they have had more international success that most "Made in India" labels, they are still waiting to retail in stores like New York's Bergdorf's Goodman, London's Harrods and Paris's
Le Bon Marché. "We would love to see our styles retail next to them and other brands such as Zac Posen, Jason Wu, and Victoria Beckham," say the sisters. Gauri and Nainika is also available in some stores in the Middle East, and is regularly a part of flash retail events in Dubai, but the duo hope to strengthen their base here soon.
The luxury label's elegant and very feminine take on fashion has a natural appeal to the sensibilities of this region.
Traditionally, as far as gowns went, India was the place that labels turned to for embroidery and embellishment, and perhaps to source fabrics, at the most. G&N have shown that you do need to be in Los Angles to understand the nuances of old Hollywood glamour. They have also injected their love for this Golden Age glamour into Indian fashion. "I think the film My Fair Lady was a huge influence growing up. The flowers, the fashion, the language -- how a simple flower girl metamorphoses into a regal princess -- it played an important role in our love for everything feminine and beautiful. Our love for old Hollywood glam, growing up in awe of movie stars such as Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, led us down this road. Romantic gowns were thus a natural choice," recalls Gauri.
The sisters regularly show at India Bridal Week. "There is definitely more to India now than traditional wear; things have changed drastically in the last ten years. Many Indian designers are now making all kind of extremely interesting and creative Western wear. Many more are making gowns now. Everyone has their own style and it feels great to have been part of starting a trend that has become a big part of Indian fashion today," states Nainika.
Gauri and Nainika were one of the first labels that understood the power of celebrity. And they launched at the right time, when Indian film stars were just starting to embrace the red carpet with panache. Soon, Gauri and Nainika's ruffled, chiffon, and billowing gowns became the obvious choice, especially if you were looking to become the brand ambassador of international brands like Maybelline, L'Oreal and Sunsilk. Film actresses and the label were a perfect fit.
Later, Gauri and Nainika princess dresses also struck chords with the young, affluent and fashion savvy urban Indian consumer. Credit for the evening gown becoming an essential part of an Indian bride's wedding trousseau also goes to these girls. "Since our brand primarily does evening wear and occasion wear, a lot of people come to us when they have a special occasion. We dress a lot of brides for their various parties that revolve around a wedding," reveals
It is their attention to fabric and fit which has been the girls' forte. While the silks used by the label are from India, they also source other fabrics from South Korea, China, Japan and Paris, and never compromise on the fabric. Tailoring is their backbone, and is something they have worked hard on, as a dress is all about how it fits. And they see being Indian as an advantage for both of these points. "As far as 'Make in India' goes -- in India we have had the advantage of being able to start something of our own with easy access to skilled artisans and tailors. Nothing is outsourced, everything is made in-house."
With their vision and action, the sisters have proved that old world charm never goes out of style.