Where the mind is without fear

Masaba Gupta
Masaba Gupta

Fashion designer Masaba Gupta speaks out about personal style, her joie de vivre, why she will always do what she believes in - and her parents Neena Gupta and Vivian Richards. Welcome to the House of Masaba

By Sujata Assomull

Published: Thu 3 Nov 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 13 Nov 2016, 1:10 PM

At 27, Masaba Gupta is one of the recognised names in fashion, thanks to the joie de vivre she brings into every collection she designs. She carries her fame with ease, as Masaba has grown-up under the spotlight: 27 years ago, when unmarried actor Neena Gupta had a child with West Indian cricket legend Vivian Richards, it was headline news. As the child of two famous parents, who were not and had no intentions of getting married, Masaba was media interest even before she was born.
She has always had a free-spirited attitude to life and this could be thanks to the fact that her parents never hid the truth from her; though she grew up in Mumbai with her mom, her dad has very much been a part of her life. She has grown up knowing both cultures and both her families.
Today, Masaba has a very open attitude towards her own life. "You know, the thing is I really don' t care what people think or say. So many times, people tell me I should be more discreet, more private, more coy and speak less - but who cares? I share information that I am comfortable with only, nothing is forced."
With almost 300,000 followers on Instagram, it seems people are interested in this 20-something's life. But to credit this only to her famous parents would be wrong; if you read recent interviews of Masaba, you will notice her parents are mentioned only in passing - her work is what has gained her attention and followers. She truly thinks out of the box, when it comes to fashion: fans, lollipops, lipsticks and dinner plates are just some of the everyday objects she turns into larger-than-life prints. While still a student, Masaba made her debut at Lakme Fashion week at 19, and was mentored by Wendell Rodricks, a designer she still looks up to. In her Spring/Summer collection, she actually made a print based on a caricature of Wendell which she called "To Sir with Love".  
Her play on prints and her love of colour caught the industry's eye immediately. At 24, she became the fashion director of one of India's best-known fashion labels, Satya Paul, and though that relationship didn't last long, it confirmed that Masaba was Indian's fashion new star.
She already has three flagships retail stores of her own: two in Mumbai and one in Delhi. This makes her, commercially, one of India's most successful designers.
She says her "cultural khichdi" could be where her signature style comes from. "The colours, the drama, the quirks - it's all a mix of both of lineages."
Perhaps one of the reasons why Masaba is able to keep the focus on her fashion is the fact that she is an open book when it comes to talking about her childhood. "I don't see a big deal in what happened to my parents. So many men put up a facade of being family men and write their wives birthday cards but actually have three other mistresses in different cities. they are way worse." Her candour makes Masaba refreshing, especially in the world of Indian fashion where most designers spend more time worrying about image than they do about their collections.
Given Masaba's lineage, she did think of joining acting, says the designer. "But my mom said I would be wasting my time and I am glad I listened to her. Indian films needs a conventional face, always."
She knew from a young age that she had a flair for fashion, so that was her choice of subject after finishing her schooling. Presently, she is working on a collaboration with Koovs (a well known online e-tailer in India), as well as a lingerie line and a tie-up with a major makeup company. She recently showed her Spring/Summer 2017 collection at Amazon India Fashion Week, where Maybelline selected her to partner with them. The company's latest makeup trend is #GirlsGoneVivid, and since Masaba is a go-getter, she was the natural choice.  
The youngest designer to have shown at India Couture Week, there is more to Masaba than a love of quirk. "I think it's important to know what people want from me and what I can give as well - as a brand."
And there is also a book in the pipeline, to be released next year. Titled Masaba, The Print, it's a pocket-style diary for young girls with quick-fix fashion solutions. It includes anecdotes from Masaba's personal style journey, and she hopes the book will be available in Dubai. The designer comes to the city at least once a year for exhibitions and has a loyal clientele.
Masaba has no problems admitting when she makes a fashion faux pas. Last November, she held her wedding celebrations after she had legally married her producer beau Madhu Mantena quietly in court a few months earlier. The Anamika Khanna outfit she wore to the reception received a lot of flak. The embroidered cup-style blouse turned out to be the focus of the wedding - for the all the wrong reasons. Gupta took to Instagram the next day, and declared. ".Looking like quite a fail in pictures. Bigger fail in reality." Perhaps because of all the media attention Masaba has received since childhood, she knows you need to take these things in your stride, and says, "It will always make for a really fun memory so it's not worth beating yourself up!"
Her story is definitely one that would make a great script for a film: from her childhood, to her fashion success to her marriage to Madhu Mantena, the producer of films such as Queen, NH 10 and Udta Punjab. At 27, she's probably too young to be the subject of a film, but if there ever is a film made, Masaba believes that Kangana Ranaut or Priyanka Chopra have the right amount of sass to play her.
You do not need to wait for the film, though, to know about Masaba's life: she is quick to update her social media accounts on her shows, travels and friends. Says the self-confessed social media addict, "I like being spontaneous on social media, I don't think too much about what I am posting unless it's sensitive stuff. Designers have to be personalities outside of the brand to become social media stars. I believe there is a spot for everyone, so it would be nice to see a lot more influencers from fashion." Many of Masaba's close friends are well-known celebrities - be it actor Alia Bhatt, style icon Pernia Qureshi or fellow designers Shivan & Narresh.
She was the first designer in India to host an Instagram fashion show for her Summer/Resort 2015 collection. She says the candy print from that collection remains one of her favourites. With her social media following being so large, it is not surprising that she has a strong e-tail presence, though she is still a firm believer in traditional retail. "We will always maintain our flagships. Shopping is an event, it's an outing and is a very intimate thing for families."
While there is no question that Masaba is ambitious, she always puts family first, so when you ask her where she sees herself in 10 years, she simply says, "Babies". And she adds, "Hopefully, the House of Masaba will be in every home, office and life."
Fashion is not enough for this girl; she's already branched out into lifestyle products such as phone covers. and you can expect to see Masaba move from fashion to lifestyle as she hopes to bring her mantra of living life without fear into everything she does.  

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