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Melbourne-based designer GKA is blending history with science fiction

Images via GKA

Words by Gabrielle O’Hagan

“I have many nostalgic memories… I have tried to bring in a lot of these elements into my new work with colour and layering of pieces on the body.”

Whether in art, literature, film or fashion, it’s rare to come across work that can successfully harness two contrasting ideas and make them work in perfect synergy. But that’s exactly what Melbourne-based designer Gautam Kapoor has done.

His collection of womenswear, GKA, combines two radically different themes: history and science fiction. He was inspired by both when launching the label, reimagining the core concepts and conventions of the genres to design bold, innovative clothes that are firmly situated in a contemporary context.


For more on Australian fashion, check out our Fashion section. 


Like many other emerging designers, GKA began locally. After travelling to Melbourne to complete his Bachelor of Fashion at RMIT University, Gautam set up a modest studio with the sole purpose of creating.

It was in this studio that he started working on commission orders for his graduate collection, and as his work gained momentum, the GKA brand was born. He still manufactures all of his clothing locally, and the garments are made-to-order.

Gautam’s latest collection is a loving tribute to his Indian heritage, and it pays homage to his family, culture, and childhood memories. He has drawn on the nostalgia of different sights and smells and infused these elements into the colours and cuts of his pieces. Below, we step inside the world of GKA.

Tell us about you. What’s your fashion background?

I was living in London and interning at Mary Katranzou as a design assistant while waiting to start my Masters in Womenswear at Central Saint Martins, which I had been accepted into but due the high course fees, I was not able to start. A close friend of mine in my hometown of Perth had to told me about how great the course at RMIT in Melbourne was, so I enrolled and got accepted into the final year of the honours and moved here knowing not many people.

 

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A post shared by GKA by Gotham (@gka______)

How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.

The label actually started quite organically – after graduating from my honours I fell into the trap of working a lot to save and recoup all the money I spent on my graduation collection, which many of my friends at university had also done.

After a few months, I decided to look for a studio so I had somewhere to work and get back into being the rhythm of being creative again. I asked my friend Lucinda if she would be interested in sharing a space and that’s how it began. I started making pieces there, and over time started to sell them and from there the label grew.

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now? 

When I first started it was about being creative and getting back into sewing and having a space where I could work and be messy while creating new things. At the time, a few people [had] reached out to me and commissioned a few pieces from my grad collection. While working on those I decided to create a website and try to sell my work on it… in part because telling people to bank transfer me for custom orders wasn’t very professional. My first mini-collection revolved around prints I created fusing historical renaissance images with sci-fi iconography, designing a range of wearable garments that were bold and edgy.

 

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A post shared by GKA by Gotham (@gka______)

For my latest collection, I delved into my Indian heritage and have been pouring through old images from my childhood in India. I moved to Australia at a young age so I have many memories from my time there going to weddings with my grandma and visiting temples as a young boy. I have many nostalgic memories whenever I smell incense of my time there. I have tried to bring in a lot of these elements into my new work with colour and layering of pieces on the body.

Where did the name come from? 

While studying fashion at RMIT I worked at Louis Vuitton for many years and every employee had a personal code to access their internal systems and mine was GKA and a lot of the staff used to call me by that, so it just stuck. In the coming months, there will be a name change to my label but it’s still in development.

What are you most proud of in your work on your label? 

I’m proud that with my label it’s all made-to-order for every client. I try very much to be sustainable with my practice and not to add to fashion waste, I make everything here by myself in my studio.

 

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A post shared by GKA by Gotham (@gka______)

What do you wish you knew when you started? 

Hmmm… that you’re going to be poor for quite a while! And that you get out as much as you put into working in this field.

Who do you think is most exciting in Australian fashion right now?

I think the most exciting Australian fashion right now is the underground designers that are emerging. The first I can name is Lucinda Babi, who also happens to be my studio partner. Her new collection, which will be released soon, is a surreal take on the American cowboy.

Another label which I have great respect for is Maroske Peech – the designers were in the year above us in university and it has been inspiring seeing them grow into their own and now being stocked in major retail platforms and being featured in Euphoria. They have a unique perspective on fashion which is very cool.

 

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A post shared by GKA by Gotham (@gka______)

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

I feel the industry could definitely help by providing more support and funding to upcoming labels to help them grow. A lot of attention and financial support seems to be given to established labels but I feel there are many talented young designers who would do very well with more support.

Who is in your wardrobe right now? 

My most recent purchase was an impulse buy during the last lockdown, which was the Jacquemus Mini Le Chiquito in brown and a pair of Yeezy 350s in beige.

How can we buy one of your pieces? 

The best place to buy my pieces is my website where you can find all my garments. I also have a couple of international stockists, Radd Lounge in Tokyo and Shop Kathleen in LA, as well as Jolie Laide here in Melbourne. I have also recently picked up a stockist in Queensland which will be coming soon.

To browse the GKA collection, head here.

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