Ajay M. Gurung: Dapper Aesthetics
The fashion market of Nepal has come a long way and it is still consistently growing. Thanks to emerging designers both in the men’s and the women’s categories, the industry has regularly seen new talents emerging. We had a chat with one aspiring designer who graced the ramp with his new men’s wear design, Mr. Ajay Gurung. Here, he shares his stories from his college days, to the present and everything in between. One thing that is for sure, is his undying love for fashion, art and movies that can be seen in his collection of suits and he also talks about his personal story of how he became a designer.
How did you decide to pursue fashion designing? Was it something you always wanted to do, or any story of how you started out?
To be honest, it was a coincidence that I got into fashion and then things kind of fell into place. I was very much interested in arts and that’s why I also pursued arts in my primary and secondary education. And I was also involved in sports, and I was quite good because my guidance counselor told me I should also try to apply for a sports scholarship for my undergraduate level. There were a lot of things going on and I was unsure of where to head, but then my younger sister suggested combining art and fashion because I was always well dressed. I didn’t want to start out in fashion designing, but somehow I did and I started drawing sketches.
But there was a general perception that there was no future in the arts field at the time. After thinking for a while, I started a training in some arts institutions.
Further, my dad had a lot of knowledge in clothes and fabric and such. And it turned out well. However, I finished my fashion designing a long time ago, back in 2005, and life sometimes doesn’t go your way, so I had a late start. My initial plan was to finish my schooling and then do 3 years of practice in various countries of Europe and the college I was in also had great placement options there. But somehow I always thought of returning to Nepal, and bring what I had learned from there.
Unfortunately, my first cousin whom I had literally grown up with passed away in an accident. So, naturally I was in no state to stay away from my loved ones. My mom and dad were also alone in the house as my sisters were all studying abroad. So, I thought of taking a break for a year and return to Nepal. After I came back, I also helped my parents in our real estate business. Also, the market for fashion designing in Nepal was not quite what it is today. I was pretty hesitant and for nearly a decade I was in the real estate business. But also then, I made a few designs for some of my female friends and family. I wasn’t doing men’s designs then. I have officially been designing men’s wear for the last 3 and a half years.
Since, you have been in the fashion field for a long time and have designed for men and women, what are some of the differences? And also how are your designs different from the rest?
I would say it is a lot different In women’s wear, there is a lot of aspects you can work with, like types of fabric, beading, embroidery and designs as a whole. But men’s fashion looks simple but actually is a lot more difficult in my perception. From afar, it does look like a suit but if you check out the details, it matters the most. There are a lot of options in designing men’s wear. And it is a lot of work. And you can totally see the difference between a well done tailored suit and just a suit. Bespoke suits are the collection of hand-made suits, there is no pasting, and everything is made from threads. We use horn buttons, from Nepal and from abroad. For me, suit is the modern day man’s armor. We have lots of fabrics to choose from and a lot of designs as well. And the hard work that my team puts is a whole another blessing.
“The personality of the wearer is also what i focus on, so I try to engage in what kind of a person they are, their qualities and such, and put my own twist which I feel like reflects them the most.”
What is your work process? How does your designs transform from the brief to the final result?
Talking about how I work, the most important thing while making a suit is having knowledge about a client’s body type. And everybody has a different body type. The shoulders, the back and the chest, all have different features.
Ultimately, the personality of the wearer is also what I focus on, so I try to engage in what kind of a person they are, their qualities and such and put my own twist which I feel like reflects them the most.
Did you have any expectations when you started out, and if so did it turn out the way you anticipated?
There were no expectations in the initial phase. Before me my younger sister, Antee Gurung, started in Fashion designing and I admire her work. Back then, I brought all my suits in retail, and also most people did, but I always had a knack for creating more designs. I was practically forced by one of my close friends to make him a suit. I was given full freedom to do whatever I want to do and just make him a suit. So, I did and maybe that was a good decision because it motivated me to create something. He liked what I had done and slowly, my friends and family also asked me to design suits for them. I had not estimated but in the span of 3 months I actually had made 350 suits. I was quite surprised and my perception of not having a market changed. And one client ordered 18 suits for himself at once. So I was confident enough to start. So, I started from having no expectations to actually finding a market for my business, and I am very happy with the results.
What do you think about the Fashion Market in Nepal? What needs to be done to make it more prominent?
The fashion market is definitely evolving and all thanks to the youth. Back then, we didn’t work till our late 20’s or just before they were married but now I see youths starting out pretty young, and it is the same with the fashion scene in Nepal. One thing about fashion is that, it is never constant. It keeps changing overtime and no one knows what the next year holds in store for the fashion industry, so you have to be flexible in what you are doing. Yes, in Nepal the fashion scene is developing to be more prominent. However, in terms of the global fashion market we are very far behind and we need to buckle up to make that happen. In terms of anything, whatever you do, do the best of it. We tend to look more at people who are doing things and try doing that, we don’t have people who experiment and fashion is a field where you experiment, it is all a trial basis. So, we should have more people who are passionate about taking risks to make their mark in the society.
What were some of the obstacles that you had to face in the market? How did you overcome them?
Well some of the obstacles is that, people don’t really know the difference between designer suits and retail suits. So, they have a perception of a certain price level, and when it doesn’t match to their expectations, it is very hard to convince them. Yes, my suits are a little expensive but what goes into making the suit is undermined by some customers. What I do is, I put in a lot more effort into my work and get to know my customers and actually make them the owners of the suit in their own way. So, that is one of the biggest issues. But there are people who appreciate the hard work and I have a lot of gratitude for them.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I take inspiration from a lot of things, and I find it everywhere but you need to have an aesthetic eye. But to be a little more specific, I had a teacher while studying, and he had a unique style of teaching. He once gave me a piece of paper and tools to draw with but nor erasers, I was shocked about how to work without an eraser, you can’t make a fine line every time. He taught us a lot of techniques to make certain shapes perfectly without an eraser. And that is one technique among a lots of different ones. So, he has been an inspiration to me from the start. Secondly, I take a lot of inspiration from movies, I love the designs in the movies and also the color scheme and art, jewelry, interior designs behind the movies. I also take a lot of inspiration from books as I read a lot as well.
How do you define your personal style?
Talking about my personal style, I cannot be definite. I obviously have a liking for suits, but apart from that I like casuals, Nehru jackets, jeans, kurta pajama. All in all, I think fashion should be exciting and fun and not at all boring. So, that’s what I want and I try to reflect that in my personal style. But I am slowly shifting towards comfort, because what you wear should make you feel good. And it shows in your personality as well.
Who are your favorite designers?
My favorite designer of all time is Armani, and he was the only designer that I knew of actually when I was a little kid, I also admire his work ethic and his personality. He is a very hard working man. Tom Ford is also very precise, and I admire him for his unique style, and talking about Nepali designers, I like, Manish Rai, but my all-time favorite is Antee Gurung, my sister but not just because of that but I really like her feminine designs.
Gentlemen, we have a plague at our hands. The wide spread epidemic of boxy jackets and suits have hit the country hard like a Hulk Smash. Everyone from our grand dads to our 6 year old nephews are rolling into work and events with suits that are too big and they think that they look mighty good. The younglings are waring suits that are too tight for humane articulation and conjure the pseudo feel of a rockstar. It’d be justice to say “we” rather than just “they” becuase everyone is a victim.
But one man has said “nay” to all of this and has come up with the antidote. The man’s name is Ajay M. Gurung and with his arsenel of thread and needle, he crafts exquisite bespoke men’s wear that are more than capable of making the wearer a ramp walker. Here are a few of his designs that grace our pages with it’s majesty.
A true head turner, this single breasted jacket is sure to fetch you some compliments and phone numbers. The jacket features peak lapels that can stab someone, flap pockets to carry all your charm, and a fit that states the stylish business you mean.
Tired of the usual grey and navy jacket? Stand out from the crowd with this subtle purple coat. It features peak lapels, flap pockets, functional sleeve buttons, and an impeccable fit. It comes with an added bonus of head turning powers.