Back in October 2020 during the midst of the pandemic, Gayatri Khanna launched her label GAYA. Born out of word-play between ‘Gaia’- the Goddess of the Earth in Greek mythology and Gayatri’s name, the label draws inspiration from the earth and all that it nurtures – its people, cultures and the flora and fauna. “During the pandemic, when the humans of the world were under lockdown, we saw the air purifying, flowers blooming, animals and birds coming out of their hiding reminding us of the beauty of nature in living harmoniously and mindfully. We wanted to present this new and beautiful earth to everyone as a reminder that we must preserve it for the well-being of all its habitants”, explains Khanna.
However, this isn’t her first venture. Gayatri Khanna started her entrepreneurial journey back in 2000, when she incorporated Milaaya Embroideries with the dream to acquit the world with India’s magnificent and breathtaking arts and crafts. We caught up with the design genius to delve deeper into her creative inspirations, thoughts on sustainability, future of the label and more!
How did you start designing, where did the initial spark of inspiration come from?
When growing up, while clothes and dressing up did fancy me, I always dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur! I actually have a B.S.C graduate in Entrepreneurial Studies and Marketing, from Babson College, Massachusetts. After graduating, I moved to New York and worked with various garment companies before getting a job at Saks Fifth Avenue as a buyer for designer wear. Spending time with the beautiful and innovative designs from these coveted and talented fashion designers inspired me. That is when I decided to combine my educational background in Business and my job experiences and a strong interest in fashion to set up my own venture- Milaaya Embroideries and GAYA.
You launched your label GAYA last year. What was your inspiration behind the launch?
The pandemic had caused a global slowdown in businesses across the world, including Milaaya Embroideries. Either we could wait for the wave to pass with uncertainty or learn to ride with the wave and adapt to the changing times—which is what fashion is all about – change. We had the experience, expertise and the resources and it was just a matter of using them to their best capacity.
During the pandemic, when the humans of the world were under lockdown, we saw the air purifying, flowers blooming, animals and birds coming out of their hiding reminding us of the beauty of nature in living harmoniously and mindfully. We wanted to present this new and beautiful earth to everyone as a reminder that we must preserve it for the well-being of all its habitants. The launch was inspired from the New Earth: a beautiful, rebooted earth after the metaphorical storm in the form of the current world scenario has passed. Born out of word-play between ‘Gaia’- the Goddess of the Earth in Greek mythology and Gayatri’s name, GAYA draws inspiration from the earth and all that it nurtures – its people, cultures and the flora and fauna.
How would you say your brand has been positioned? Who are your designs for?
We are a western-wear brand, designed in Italy, handcrafted in India and sold worldwide. Our designs and aesthetics are very global. During the lockdown, loungewear was the need of the hour. I saw a vast gap in the local landscape for Smart Lounge fashion- loungewear that is a little glamorous and can easily translate from day to evening wear, from lounging to work from home to staycation looks and designed a collection accordingly. Now we are moving more into the Ready To Wear space, keeping in mind the changing times, our designs are versatile and timeless. They are practical yet stylish and we have something for everyone; from dresses, blouses, lounge-sets, co-ordinated sets, bomber jackets to pants, skirts, kaftans and more. Bold, confident, stylish women who see fashion as an expression, between the age group of 25 to 55 or more—be it a student, professional, a working woman or home-maker, are all our customers.
What are the design elements/silhouettes you like to work with and why?
For me clothes are an expression, and they reflect what one is feeling. When I select designs, I want the person wearing them to feel good, uplift their mood and make heads turn! I want the designs to evoke positivity and joy. Hence, I choose striking refreshing prints, a vibrant colour palette and innovative embellishments that add a touch of luxury and understated glamour. These are the USPs of our brand. Even our track sets have a touch of embellishment and design detail.
Can you share some of your favourite pieces from your collection?
One of my favourites is the Sara Dress with its easy to wear silhouette, but the refreshing print makes it striking, and you can dress it down or dress it up effortlessly!
Gaya Multi-Color Printed Dress, 10,080
Another absolute favourite of mine is the Mouiller Denim jacket and pants set. We have added our own touch to the classic ripped trend by adding a scatter of embellishment and sparkle. The silhouette is a mix of modern, edgy and glamourous.
Blue Embellished Jacket, 21,840
Our track sets are the perfect mix of comfort, style and glam in the way of the design details like the emblem on the jacket. The below one is another favourite because of its classic and versatile.
How do you see the loungewear space evolve in the coming years, and what is the contemporary idea behind it?
Loungewear was definitely in trend before the pandemic, but it is during the pandemic that it really caught on and made a space of its own in the fashion closets. It became a way of life. Loungewear is no longer limited to just basic pajama sets or track sets or onesies to wear at home. Modern day loungewear is stylish, pleasing to the eye and refuses to just stay indoors. Of course comfort will always be primary when it comes to loungewear, but now with loungewear being one of the favourite choices of clothing for work from home, or a leisurely evening with friends or travel, it has evolved to include various silhouettes like dresses, kaftans, track sets, pant suits in comfortable knits, cottons and even silks. As I like to call it a smart lounge, it has certain design elements that sets it apart from the rest, may be a print, embellishment or a detailing in terms of the construction.
How important is the concept of sustainability to your brand? What is the biggest challenge with making sustainable clothing?
Fashion not only has an impact on the environment but also employs thousands of people at various levels. Sustainability is not just about reducing the environmental impact of fashion, but also complete supply chain transparency and ethical manufacturing. GAYA is all about slow fashion and producing quality pieces that are timeless in designs and meant to last longer. We are taking baby steps towards sustainability by using our excess fabrics to make masks, scrunchies or other accessories, only producing limited pieces per style. We are also a duly audited and compliant factory, following an ethical and transparent supply chain. The challenge is to make cost effective products while being sustainable and also finding the right resources but there are alternatives for everything, and we need to work our way around the same.
Do you think the current and the future generation would want more of the elements of sustainability in the luxury products?
Yes the current generation is very mindful of their purchases. They are more aware and want to be loyal to the brands that are in alignment with their morals and beliefs.
How do you see the brand evolving in the next five years?
GAYA is a holistic brand offering premium Ready-to-Wear and accessories to its discerning customers. Currently only serving women, we want to include clothing and accessories for men and children as well. While keeping the ethos of the brand the same— a thoughtful brand that is able to convey a message through its vibrant, fun and modern designs, we want the brand to be adaptive of the changing times and be global, having its presence in various cities.
Q: Your first brush with fashion
A: My job at Saks Fifth Avenue as a buyer for women’ s wear.
Q: What does luxury mean to you?
A: Today luxury to me personally is having the means, the resources and the time to lead a safe and healthy lifestyle, to be able to spend time with my family and doing things that I love. Professionally, since we are in the business of creating luxury garments and accessories, luxury is more about giving the buyers a value for their spending, products that are timeless in design and superior in quality.
Q: How does a day in the life of Gayatri Khanna look like?
A: Being an entrepreneur and a mother to two wonderful daughters, no two days are the same in my life! However I make sure to start my day with meditation, exercise and green tea, which is followed by some time with my daughters. A productive and busy day at work and the day ends with some quality time with family and giving gratitude for the wonderful day I had!
Q: The first outfit you designed.
A: The first article of clothing I ever designed was for my graduation ceremony. It was navy one shouldered body con dress with ruffles giving it a strong yet feminine vibe.
Q: What are you reading right now?
A: I am currently reading The Mother by Maxim Gorky.
Q: A song that plays on loop in your playlist
A: My song choice changes as per my mood.
Q: Your favourite city in the world
A: Istanbul is very inspiring with its amalgamation of the east and the west!
Q: What labels would we find in your closet?
A: For accessories, it would be Gucci. For clothes it would be a mix of Zimmerman, Michael Kors and others.
Q: Three things you can’t leave your house without
A: Phone, wallet and lipstick!
Q: Where are you traveling next?
Q: A must-have accessory for Summer
A: The funky GAYA visors to protect you from the sun!
Q: 12. What’s the last thing you do before going to bed?
A: I offer gratitude for the wonderful day I have had!
Q: What’s your beauty routine like?
A: It is simple and effective- Sunscreen in the day and cleansing, toning and moisturizing before bed.