Masaba Gupta was in the midst of watching a documentary when the screen lit up with a chameleon switching colours. It was at that moment that it suddenly dawned on the celebrity designer that she had finally found a word that perfectly described her. ‘I was like, ‘That’s me’. I am also someone who’s quick to change and adapts to life. Chameleons are also survivors and very heightened,’ the 33-year-old founder of the Indian fashion label, House of Masaba, tells Friday.
In a career spanning over a decade, that began at the age of 19 with a debut at the Lakme Fashion Week in 2009, the Queen of Prints, as she is popularly known, has effortlessly donned many roles. From running a successful fashion label to launching LoveChild, a beauty and wellness enterprise, to starring in the hit Netflix series Masaba-Masaba, she has been unknowingly mirroring qualities of her spirit animal for years.
‘From a designer’s point of view, I think I am quick to adapt to the needs of the consumer, which is why, I like to deal with many things that keep me stimulated. As an actor I am fairly new, but I do understand, what kind of performance is required in each setting. I read the room and take on the role the room demands,’ she says.
There have been quite a few changes happening in her life too.
Her recent marriage to co-star Satyadeep Mishra; the settting up of a successful jewellery line and cosmetic brand; a Rs900 million investment in her fashion business from Aditya Birla Fashion Retail Limited (ABFRL); ten retail outlets across India with plans to expand into the Middle East... Masaba is well and truly on a roll.
Born in Delhi, India, to Bollywood actress Neena Gupta and West Indian cricketer Sir Vivian Richards, Masaba broke away from the mould early to carve her own path. Forever multifarious, she dabbled in tennis in her teens, trained in music and dance and eventually studied fashion launching her maiden store in Mumbai in 2010. Today her eponymous brand is well-known for blending innovative silhouettes, bold colours and signature motifs presented in a diverse clothing line, that ranges from luxe resort wear to bridal collections.
Described as an Indian proud label with a Caribbean heart, the brand’s ethos is an ode to its creator’s mixed lineage.
A self-confessed lover of sun, sea and sand, the designer’s aesthetic sense, she admits, is greatly inspired by the tropics and her Caribbean heritage. ‘I think it’s a very interesting culture, they love colour and wear prints effortlessly. They also believe in living a good life, focused on their mental health. That is something, you will find trickling in the clothes I do,’ she tells.
From a designer's point of view, I think I am quick to adapt to the needs of the consumer, which is why, I like to deal with many things that keep me stimulated. .. I readthe room and take on the role the room demands.’
Never shy to experiment, Masaba’s clothing line is often synonymous with pop-up colours and quirky prints. In her own words, she pronounces them stylish and a bit boisterous. ‘So, anything unusual I do, that is a bit over the top, I always link it back to my Caribbean lineage, and then I muster up the courage and do it anyway, because then that piece becomes the most distinctive one at House of Masaba,’ she reveals.
The brand’s recently launched Spring Summer Collection 2023, screams out this philosophy loud. Yet it could be from anywhere in the world. This season’s essence, Masaba points out, is a heady mix of traditional, tropical and futuristic in terms of colours and ideology. Following a holiday vibe, the clothes are designed to bypass trends and transcend time. Unapologetic in their vibrant colour schemes and oversized patterns, her clothes this summer, the designer hopes, will be great conversation starters. ‘You can wear them while meandering on a street, indulging in vintage shopping and then walk in them to a really fancy restaurant, later to a museum or a café. They are going to take you from day to night, making a statement, urging people to ask you – what and who you are wearing.’
EASY TO WEAR
From this collection the designer’s own favourite is the oversized shirt and the Pareo skirt inspired from her trips to Italy. ‘It’s very easy to wear, can be paired with flats, heels or even sneakers. Worn knotted with the shirt left open, loose or oversized. You don’t need much makeup. That’s the kind of zone I am looking at, from this collection.’
Art is yet another source of design inspiration for Masaba. Her own wedding ensemble in hues of green and pink was inspired by a painting by the renowned Indian artist Manjit Bawa. ‘I take inspiration from art a lot. I have also been a huge fan of MF Hussain and have even designed an entire collection based on his work,’ she says. Likewise, the House of Masaba bridal wear is an elevated version of her signature line. High on colour and comfort, with simple prints for the new age bride, who honours tradition and has a mind of her own.
All my life, I have been judged for being a love child, but I have risen above it and this is me saying that I am taking control of my narrative through a great line of high performing cosmetics
Unabashedly honest, Masaba wears her identity on her sleeve. Raised by a single mom (her parents never married), she has embraced every aspect of her persona naming her beauty and wellness brand – LoveChild, a label that she grew up with in real life. For the woman of colour, this range of cosmetic caters to every shade of skin tone found in India. ‘I think it takes a woman of colour to understand that there are different parts and pockets of our skin that can be different shades. For the longest time I could not wear makeup because of severe acne and when I started to apply it, I discovered so much about it, especially how it can really change the way one looks,’ she says.
Blending beauty, fragrance and wellness, the brand’s ideology is geared beyond cosmetics. Along with lipsticks and nail enamels, there are calming fragrances and anti-anxiety oils designed in a kitschy packaging with out-of-the-box labelling. So, lip crèmes come with names of the likes of Masala Chai, Kokam Panna and Meetha. Antiguan Decaf is a fragrance with hints of coffee, caramel, sage and orange blossom. ‘The name LoveChild came to me instantly, so powerful, for someone who’s standing there and owning it. All my life, I have been judged for being a love child, but I have risen above it and this is me saying that I am taking control of my narrative through a great line of high performing cosmetics,’ she adds.
On the personal front, Masaba enjoys a close relationship with her mother Neena, with whom she is also starring in the autobiographical TV series. Neena is also an integral part of the LoveChild brand as well. On Mother’s Day, an entire line of products named after her mom, called Neenaji’s Favourites for older women and those with the lighter skin, were released.
The pandemic had also proved to be a time of great learning for the designer. She now often shares fitness tips and beauty hacks on social media and has recently rebranded her signature store in Juhu into a zen space. In tones of ivory and red, with vintage artifacts, it’s a haven the designer feels that her customers will find intimate and safe.
From designing her first sari in her teens for a cousin’s wedding, to running multi-million businesses, Masaba has come a long way. Owning her distinct lineage, she has poured her learnings into her products, turning the negatives into positives. In a business that makes other women feel good about themselves, she says while designing, she looks at her consumers as her friends and family, as women who are dealing with insecurities like her. ‘I have ridden every wave that came my way. I have adapted and changed. I dislike mediocracy.’