Gayatri Khanna, who has built a successful Mumbai-based embroidery business that works for some of the biggest couture and fashion houses, has branched out with her own ready-to-wear collection, called Gaya. The designer is looking to expand Gaya into the United States and is currently showcasing her fall and holiday lines to US retailers.
When the global pandemic halted most production for many high-end fashion brands around the world, Khanna saw an opportunity to leverage the experience, talent, market knowledge and production sustainable manufacturing from her embroidery business to launch her own line.
Milaaya Embroideries, an embroidery house in India known for its hand beading expertise, works with fashion brands such as Max Mara, Pinko, Versace, Marchesa, Ralph & Russo, Dolce & Gabbana, Marni, Azzaro, Saint Laurent, Chloé, Givenchy and Julien Macdonald, among others, within Kering, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Compagnie Financière Richemont. It has an 18,000 square foot vertically integrated factory in Mumbai equipped with a full design and sampling team, a sewing workshop, embroidery workshop, CAD department, quality control department, shipping and packaging and an internal raw material store.
Khanna, creative director of Gaya, thought her embroidery house, which employs 450 people and has been in business for 23 years, had all the resources to go from being a third-party resource to creating a standalone brand.
“We try to keep everything very vertical and durable. All the luxury brands we have worked with for 20 years are very special, especially the Kering brands and the LVMH brands,” she said. She started embroidery with a few clients, and the business snowballed. Today they have marketing offices in Paris, Milan, New York and London.
Khanna started shipping the Gaya collection in late 2020 and since then she has been selling merchandise through her own online store and various e-tailers and retail stores in India including Pernia’s Pop Up Shop, Nykasa Fashion, Aza Fashion, The Fashion Edit, Agashe and in select shops in Dubai and Singapore.
In an interview, she said her dream accounts in the United States would be Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, as well as specialty stores such as Intermix.
Gaya is designed in Europe and handmade in India. It blends European influence with the arts and crafts of India. The line is inspired by Khanna’s travels, nature and Indian culture.
Born in Mumbai, Khanna graduated from Babson College in Boston and spent her early career working at Saks Fifth Avenue, first as an intern and later in the purchasing department. She explained that she always wanted to have a brand. In 2006, she had a brand in India called Gayatri. At that time, western clothes were not popular and there was no internet. “It didn’t take off, because Western wear didn’t take off,” she said. She said she should have done heavy Indian clothing, and that was not her aesthetic, so she focused on Milaaya.
“It was the right time to launch our brand. Our specialty is embroidery and print design,” she said.
During the pandemic, they started with embroidered masks, making 2,000-3,000 masks a week to donate to the poor in India. From there they moved into rtw. But US stores contacted at the time said they were not considering new lines because of the pandemic. She decided that 2022 would be a better time to launch the new brand in the United States.
The collection, which focuses on embroidery, prints and specialty fabrics, includes dresses and blouses. Retail prices range from $175 to $1,950.
The fall and holiday collections each have 20 styles. The collection includes fabrics such as viscose and silk.
The fall collection is a celebration of nature and is inspired by natural elements and warmer colors. The women’s contemporary collection features micro-floral prints and intricate embellishments and embroidery, a Gaya signature. There are blouses, mini and maxi dress styles and intricate 3D floral embroidery that takes 35 hours by five skilled artisans to layer fabric flowers, beads and thread. The collection also includes lace details and hand beading on luxury jacquards.
When asked to describe her aesthetic, Khanna said, “It’s clean lines. It’s a completely western outfit. Simple embroideries, something effective to look at, chic and classy. In terms of prints, there are fun colors, it makes you look bright and lively.
It will ship from Mumbai directly to US stores.
She explained that her client is a strong and active woman, likes to be fashionable and wants her clothing expenses not to be too high. “It looks luxurious, but it’s affordable. Someone who really wants to look feminine but wants to make their mark,” she said. She thinks the woman could wear the clothes to events like brunch or Going out at night. Dresses can also be worn on occasion. “The beauty of these is that you can dress them up or keep them casual, depending on how you style them. You can even go to a wedding. We have a few so you can have a good date,” she said.
When asked what categories she eventually wants to introduce, Khanna said, “That seems to be what we know right now. In fact, we would like to start a fashion house and eventually branch out into different products and categories. We want to take it one step at a time, and really dive into those two categories and sell them well, and then we’ll look at a new one, maybe more resort-focused. We’ll have to see how it goes as it’s a new brand.
The collection is presented at Milaaya’s New York office at 147 West 35th Street in New York.
FOR MORE STORIES:
India’s new Jio World Mall gives luxury brands more space in Mumbai
Mumbai and Delhi fashion weeks in India combine
Kering will open a hand embroidery center in India