Notebook’s Niharika Gupta shares the secret to standing out as an emerging designer

by Neharika Manjani

A childhood spent raiding her brother’s closet coupled with the strong sense of pride she experienced every time she slipped into her school uniform is what lead Delhi-based designer Niharika Gupta to launch Notebook. Today, the label, which made its debut a little less than a year ago, is steadily garnering a following for its classics that are far from common. Think slouchy suits in unconventional hues, button-downs with belts and trousers that are both formal and fun. We sat down with Gupta on her vision and what it takes to make it in an industry that routinely experiences an influx of new talent.

Tell us about your label.
Notebook is all about power dressing mixed with comfort. I wanted to create casual clothing that was also impactful and didn’t call for excessive accessorising. Also, people generally look to the past for cultural references and then recreate it to suit the present. We at Notebook want to create silhouettes and details that can be used by generations to come. Even though you’ll see elements like collars and lapels in our collections, we’ve used it to create something entirely new.

What, according to you, sets it apart?
Clarity of vision. Our collections are usually made of 15-20 pieces. I don’t design keeping the consumer in mind. The only question I ask myself is whether what I’m designing does justice to my vision. Today, there are many label’s flooding the market with different kinds of products. It’s so important to experiment and create something unique, the rest will follow.

Are you veering towards seasonless fashion?
While our collections always feature a palette that’s academic – terra cotta, for example, is a colour I’ll be using across seasons, we do tend to change our silhouettes a little to better suit the weather. For autumn/winter, we had a lot of layers.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting out on your own?
Notebook was lucky enough to be noticed by the industry at a nascent stage. Initially, we had a small production team and when the orders started coming in, the studio was in a mess. We didn’t want to outsource anything because the quality and finishing wouldn’t be the same. So, my partner Kislay Kishore and I worked around this together and increased the size of our production team to include 20-30 people. We’ve had our ups and downs and to be able to maintain my calm through it all is something that I’ve learnt and I’m still learning.

The one piece of advice you would give another emerging designer?
For anyone starting their own label, it’s crucial to have one person that handles the creative aspect of things and another that looks at accounts and logistics. Designers tend to think from the heart, and it’s important to have someone who can handle the technical aspect of things.

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