Interview: Intercultural Collaboration in the Indian Fashion Industry

Posted by Peter Braun • Tuesday, March 9. 2010 • Category: Arts and Beyond
"After exploring Milano and London, coming back to India made me feel that I know the place for the first time."

Norwegian photographer Roger J. Renberg (www.renbergphoto.com) and Indian fashion designer Ankur Gupta (www.ankurgupta.co.in) both based in New Delhi, compose their art in an own way. Working with each other, they put all their talents together and created a sum that is larger than the individual parts. We talked to them about intercultural collaborations in the fashion industry, the sources of their inspiration, and what it takes to reach professional fulfillment.

Garments by: Ankur Gupta / Photo by: Roger J. Renberg

KM: Both of you have crossed many cultural boundaries in your professional lives. Please tell us a bit about your experiences and how they influence your work?

Roger: As an artist you get inspired by everything around you. From Norway and England I brought my experiences and cultural influences to India. Now I discover new facets of creativity when I drop down the camera and get lost in the fascinating life this country has to offer. As a source of inspiration India is unique. My work has changed due to what I come across when I open my eyes. When I look at Ankur’s new collection that we will launch with a shooting big time in Europe and India, I see the idea behind his art and where he comes from. I then have to adapt my way of work and expression to the environment and culture from which the fashion has evolved which is a very enriching professional challenge that I enjoy every day.

Ankur: For me inspiration is all about exploration. Just like in the case of Roger my creativity comes from the experiences I made. Many cultural inputs from Europe such as interaction between men and women, a high level of individual freedom, and the idea of a united Europe have a very important impact on my recent collection. What inspires me about the collaboration with Roger is his vision of being so fearless and doing things in his own way. When we do a shooting we might have different ideas in mind but at the end our visions combined create something unique. Living abroad, gives you an exposure to what other cultures think about the culture of their guests and what conclusions they draw from it. A host in Europe once prepared a bed for me on the floor of the sleeping room as he believed it’s an Indian habit. While working as an Indian in Milano and London I stumbled across many other curiosities most of the locals might not even experience.


Garments by: Ankur Gupta / Photo by: Roger J. Renberg
KM: What are the projects both of you are working on right now. Are there any more intercultural collaborations you have in mind?

Ankur: The fashion industry in India by now is very international and it’s becoming more and more globalised. Together with American-Japanese fashion designer Mia Morikawa (http://www.kapowwowobjects.com) and Portuguese DJ Tiago Oudman (http://www.myspace.com/tiago_oudman) whom both just like so many others from diverse backgrounds I met at the Sound Tamasha events I will do a new collection different to the Couture I usually design. The idea is to include the fun factor, atmosphere, and the irony behind these nights into the designs we have in mind. We want to cater to a young cool and cosmopolitan crowd all over the world. We should not separate any more between Indian and Western fashion which is something very different than our traditional garments. It’s all the same by now. Our aim is to look at the fun part of tradition just as the Sound Tamasha does. Tiago is an ideal partner since he performs in clubs around the world and observes certain trends when they are not yet mainstream. Mia’s fashion is outstanding and I see myself only as a small part in the bigger picture. Cooperating with others teaches me not to take myself too important and cut down on my personal ego to look at the larger results that go beyond the individual ambitions only.

Roger: Our previous shootings have been published in major European fashion magazines such as Zoot Magazine, U – Magazine, and international fashion blogs like Dazed Digital which brought us a lot of attention. Our cooperation and the freshness in it made people even more aware of what is going on in the Indian fashion world. Since almost every European designer is inspired by traditional Indian clothing especially by the embroidery that is done over here, it is good to spread the word that these traditions find new ways of expression with young upcoming designers like Ankur. Living in India as a photographer obviously makes you very interesting for the big fashion magazines that are all looking towards new trends and markets. Despite all that I hope to shoot more invites with international and Indian DJs for the Sound Tamasha. I dig the fact that they are promoted in an ironic way by playing with cultural prejudices.


KM: Living in different places often results in problems of understanding especially at your work environment. How do you manage to bring both your visions together?

Roger: Our visions usually match because we have a similar outlook. We are both young and slightly crazy. We love to explore the freedom to experiment and share the spirit to create something adventurous. Again the core of everything we do is creativity and fun. We always try to do something which people in the places where we come from may not have seen yet. Ankur’s input matters a lot to me and we can learn so much from each other sharing our passion. His designs are just as freaky as my experiences in India.

Ankur: It doesn’t really matter if you have different point of views as long as you bring them together. You need people who believe in what you do and who support your ideas. When we do a shooting we usually choose an Indian setting to make people understand where the art is coming from. It should be visible that the garments have been produced in India while at the same time we never loose focus from my collections that are equally soft and funky.


Garments by: Ankur Gupta / Photo by: Roger J. Renberg
KM: What does it take to achieve professional success when leaving the comfort zone of your native culture?

Roger: I think its very import just to go for it and not have too many expectations. In India you should not stay in a safe bubble and shut yourself away from how life really is. It doesn’t help to shield you away from all the crap on the streets. For me it’s more beneficial to get exposed to an environment that you are not used to. When you get stuck in uncomfortable and difficult situations, you grow so much after you mastered them. Even if you don’t have the success you are dreaming about the world won’t end if you go back. The cultural input you absorb will never be lost. It’ll be there for the rest of your life and will change your creative work forever which is the most beautiful part of it all.

Ankur: Success comes in many different ways not only in financial terms. It happens that I get offers by investors who at the beginning seem to be interested to market my collections. Most of the time, it turns out that they rather expect me to design wedding dresses and Kurtas. There is nothing wrong in doing those kind of garments but it’s not what I want to do at this point of my career. I don’t want to do something that is primarily created for commercial purposes. After I saw many new approaches how garments are done in Europe I remembered what I learned back in India, what I missed most about my home country, and ultimately became much more Indian in certain ways. The influences from my childhood until the recent days brought so much inspiration while I was away from home. Without the experience of working abroad they might have been lost. After exploring Milano and London, coming back to India made me feel that I know the place for the first time.


KM: What advice do you have for people who want to follow your footsteps?

Ankur: Once you reach a new place, go out and get in touch with people. Go where you will find what you seek to discover. It’s essential to meet people who want to work with you and support you on your way. If you are from India and you go to Europe, be as Indian as you are and don’t hide it. Look at life from your own angle and perspective. I went to Europe, met fascinating and lovely people and now plan a new collection with Europeans living in India. If you come to India visit the Tamasha nights and you will get in touch with people from all sorts of backgrounds. Don’t go where they exclude people but where they are inviting them. As an Indian I am feeling so happy that the there are occasions in my own city where so many international people are connecting with Indians and create intercultural experiences that result in all these projects we talk about. I love the cosmopolitan atmosphere and it’s amazing to see that more people are coming to India to be part of these developments.

Roger: Be picky about the people you work with and there will be plenty of opportunities opening in front of you. Use the contacts that you might have already and continue to network in your field. Learning about the opening of your Shanghai office at the end of the year is super interesting for me as an artist. I know that there will be somebody where I can go. It makes me think that I may go to China after India one day. I feel that it becomes much easier for me because I know that I will find a partner who can be the stepping stone to settle again in a new destination and get down into the local, the real culture of the people. Going to China before I might move back to Europe again will be such a fantastic adventure that will be hard to resist.


KM: Thanks a lot to both of you guys. We enjoyed talking to you and look forward to see more of your work. Best of luck and always come back to us.

Garments by: Ankur Gupta / Photo by: Roger J. Renberg

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  1. very nice collection

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