By Neha Lobana
What happens when passion meets fate? In this case, a killer designer duo in the heart of downtown Toronto is born and they go by the name, G aur M. Gargi Ghughare and Mrigini Iyer never once thought that they would end up meeting one another, let alone form a partnership to found their eccentric label.
Both were born in India, raised in the middle east, immigrated to Canada in their teens, pursuing their post-secondary education here. The pair have to thank their fascination for a nomadic lifestyle which has helped them create couture where inspirations and ideas get tied in from both Toronto and the many other cultures they’ve experienced. The vast multiculturalism in Toronto has played a huge role in their fashion journey, as the city compliments their aesthetic tointegrate assorted cultures into their brand.
Their eye for pulling various cultures together and being gutsy enough to work with fabrics that the regular designer would not work with is setting a bold mark for them in the fashion industry. It’s not everyday that you’ll come across designers who are willing to make a collection using tapestry fabrics that you would find on couches in the Middle East. These young women thrive on stepping outside their comfort zone and refuse to be followers of what the “now” is infashion. Instead, the tone behind their brand is created through their personalities.
For someone who doesn’t know much about Fashion, how can you explain to them that you draw inspiration from Toronto and different cultures for your brand as previously mentioned to other publications?
M: So what we are basically, we were born in India, raised in the Middle East and did most of our education in Toronto and so what we try to do is to cross pollinate all other aspects of these cultures that we’ve experienced before and just put that together with western silhouettes and all our fabric comes from all over the world. Toronto has been a major part in our relationship, living here and knowing each other and travelling together and having that experience together transforms into very different creative ideas.
G: The part of Toronto that we put into our collection the majority of it would be the silhouette because our fabrics are from different parts of the world essentially and we’re trying to make it more wearable. And the only way to make it more wearable is to draw inspiration from the western silhouette and in this case, the Canadian silhouette.
N: You guys went to Vancouver right? So are you trying to get into Toronto fashion week?
G: We were just discussing this before you came in and we actually ended up doing more spring/summer collections than winter so we’re probably going to do Toronto fashion week in October.
M: And what we’re trying to do now is get ourselves more out there. In Toronto people know G aur M is here, what are products look like so right now we’re in the stage of establishing the brand and you know trying to have our products in different stores its in the process of course.
N: So you said you went to school in Canada right? So how was the process going through school to learn your craft? Did you find any hardships?
M: School here, we put hours on hours. 14 hours a day.
G: But never for school stuff, we did it for our own stuff. School wasn’t hard for me. The hardship for me was that I didn’t come from a fashion background essentially, initially because I did my undergrad in finance. You had to do an entrance exam like a sewing entrance exam and I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine so that was my issue but school in general was really, really helpful.
M: It was actually definitely because as much creativeness you have in your mind and things are going on around you have so many ideas but you need to learn your basic foundation of anything you do and I think the school that we went to did an amazing job
G: Fantastic, it was a fantastic school and program
M: Yeah and the professors even though some of them are super hard and harsh, but I think that really helped us because you always wanna do the better of yourself and if they’re telling you oh you’re not good even though you might be you’re just trying to get into their good books.
G: And you know it’s a technical program focused on design you know it didn’t focus on your creative process it focused on skills, basic foundation skills and once you have that you can basically manipulate and explore whatever you want to do.
N: Do you feel after graduating from George Brown, do you think it boosted your confidence in doing what you’re doing now?
G: Yes, for sure, definitely. Just to understand the process and to come up with designs that are actual do able instead of just coming up with something, it helps a lot.
M: I actually finished my school in Chicago, so I did my first year in George Brown and transferred to Columbia College and that school was more creative based. It was great that I learned all my basics in George Brown and I went there and did all my creative stuff I had wanted to do. It was a good help because funny that they don’t have that strong foundation but again it’s an art school so you do what you want to do. It’s that kind of thing you know all hippies and all of that. But It’s great that I had all the basic skills needed to run something and I did that so that was definitely very helpful.
N: Have you guys made any connections so far to take your brand higher in Toronto?
M: There have been opportunities.
G: Yeah there have been a lot of opportunities. We’re trying to basically explore in different cities all at the same time that’s why we’ve never stuck to Toronto or saturate this market. So we did DC fashion week, we did Vancouver fashion and we’re now probably going to do Caribbean fashion week. That’s the way we want our business to go. Toronto is our base but we’re trying to get into different markets all at the same time.
M: Right now is not the right time to put things in stores, we want the value to go up and people to have that thing in their head that this is G aur M. if we start anywhere, the brand image is not stable then it’s going here and there, we don’t know. If it was streetwear then definitely, Toronto is the best place to do streetwear in North America but the type of brand we are, Toronto is home then we want to expand from there.
G: It’s always been like a nomadic brand before we even started our concept was to explore the life of the nomad. We’ve always gone that way and stuck to that.
N: What advice would you give to someone who is fresh out of fashion school or college and is looking to establish themselves? What advice would you give them in terms of staying true to your brand and just doing it?
G: As soon as they come out of school they need to figure out if they want to work for someone or they want to start their own thing because it’s not easy either way. Like we can’t probably ever work under anyone. It’s just our nature – you either work for someone you’re comfortable with in a big organization where you’re done and you go home or you work for yourself. So figure that out, that’s number one. And number two is like if you explore the market and get your process down
M: Do your research. A lot of people freshly graduated people, what they do is “ok I have this thing, I have so many ideas” put it together and always long term planning. This is why I’m saying this is because we’ve experienced it.
N: How many months of planning did it take to create G aur M?
G: The brand was born out of just this need to actually present in the year end fashion show at GB. So, we were like we’re coming up with a bunch of outfits and a bunch of looks so we may as well call ourselves something, just for the fun of it. And that’s how that was born. It wasn’t really a planned process. But yeah ideally, that’s what you should do. If that’s what you want to do, plan it out, take some time and check if it’s feasible. If you have the money for it, you know it’s not easy establishing a business, it’s so hard and we’ve both experienced it big time.
M: So every step that we take, we’re learning something new all the time. It’s not like oh we’re such geniuses and we have it all perfectly set up.
G: Design process wise, every collection we learn something new, every collection we look at the last one and ask ourselves “What the hell did we do?”. You know, like our first collection we came up with these pants and we just sketched them and were like “let’s make this in raw silk”. We made them and we didn’t think even for a second and didn’t calm down and ask “is this even going to work”. We were just like “oh pink, raw silk” and then we made them and they were just these balloon pants. Like they looked like clown pants!
M: Yeah it’s not even about colours or anything. Our problem was “oh just cut a swatch out, put it on paper” and saying “oh this works”. But you have to know how a fabric works, how it breathes, how it falls. I honestly sometimes think fabrics have life because they do their own thing and how you design it and put it on a person, it totally changes.
G: It changes a lot. So in terms of design process, you need to get that down. In terms of the business process of it like what are you looking for? What’s your audience? What money do they want to spend? What money do you have to spend? You’re not making money
M: The first two years, just consider yourself at loss. 100% loss.
G: And then just keep pumping at it you know you have to figure out if it’s even financially feasible for you at that point because you can’t be a new designer not knowing what to do and then put in that much money, it doesn’t make sense.
M: Fashion is definitely a hard business
G: Your investment returns are nothing
M: Again our brand is such that it’s going to take time but if you’re doing something like quick – like sweaters, that does make quick money but again depending on what your brand stands for you plan accordingly.
G: Because if you slip up and you’re trying to make money in that first year and you’re like “okay I’m putting in money and I need it back” your brand value and image is going to go down and once you touch that it’s hard to go back up. Michael Kors started off huge and luxurious and now it’s falling. You can’t try to make quick money if you’re trying to sustain it long term.
N: Do you guys ever get worried about all the other competitors?
G: No and not out of arrogance, out of faith that the brand is vision is just slightly different and nothing that we’ve seen before. So it doesn’t come out of a place of over confidence it’s just that we haven’t seen it before which is why we got into it and so when that does come along, yes we’ll see competitors but as of now there are competitors like on international fronts that are more similar to us. Like there’s this brand called Mochi. That one’s very similar but yeah they’re saturated in their own little markets and not getting out anytime soon and we’re probably the same.