Every fashionista has his label in their list of saved pages for its flattering designs and pocket-friendly prices. We catch up with the man behind the creativity to chat about his muses, inspirations and the tremendous success of his line.
His enviable fashion legacy aside, Ashray Gujral has carved out a unique path for himself in the industry. The son of Seema Gujral, a popular designer of Indian attire, and Ashish Gujral, the proprietor of a high-end export house, Ashray established himself with a confidence that belies his young age.
“With the exposure I’ve had through my parents, I intrinsically knew clothes,” he shares. “I’d say, more than fashion, I knew garments — what feels good and what looks good on different people. This always thrilled me. It also made me question the lack of luxurious, unique, high-quality and functional clothes in India. People who work in the fashion industry would go abroad to buy their clothes. I had a burning desire to rectify this situation. So one random night in September 2020, I decided to just go for it.”
Creating something of value was a secret dream that Ashray had harboured for many years. When his parents showed interest in supporting his vision, he was fully prepared with presentations, Excel sheets and design ideas. Hence, it barely took three months for his ideas to come to fruition, and label Dash & Dot was digitally launched in the midst of a global pandemic. Even Ashray couldn’t have imagined the overwhelmingly positive response his work would receive in such a short span of time.
“My design mantra has always been ‘designed and not designer’ because the clothes must speak for themselves,” he explains. “Growing up, I felt this vacuum in the Indian market for products that offer access to luxury, high-quality good design, which was being served only by highly priced international brands. This became my driving force. Indian body types weren’t being catered to much.”
“Our brand is of Indian origin for Indian people and from India, and our clothing caters to varying age groups, body types and aesthetics. We aim to make clothes that are easily accessible by Indian women and will make them want to dress up. Fortunately, the response to the line has been greater than I could have ever imagined. We’re looking at brick-and-mortar expansion soon.”
Ashray imbibed his creative curiosity from his mother and has a proclivity for dabbling in all aspects of design, with immense focus on inclusivity and creations that represent the entire spectrum of genders. As such, his home is a haven of art and cutting-edge design, consisting of pieces he painstakingly collected over the past few years. His pieces range from those made by Jitish Kallat, Jogen Chowdhury and Krishna Reddy, to Antonio Santin, Jake Grewal, Vishwa Shroff, Tanya Goel, Parul Gupta, Ayesha Singh and Klove Studio.
His keen eye for detail and innate understanding of drapes and design enabled Dash & Dot to become a label to reckon with in just two years — a fact that’s evident at HELLO!’s shoot with seven ladies who serve as his muse, oohing and aahing over every garment they wear. According to the designer, each of them embodies the principles he stands for: uniqueness and ingenuity in a universally appealing format.
Speaking of his muses, all of whom are his friends, supporters, critics and clients, Ashray says: “I’ve known and been inspired by all seven of them closely for a long time now, and most of them are like family. Besides their amazing sense of style and individuality, each one is a strong woman, the author of their own stories.”
“When HELLO! and I decided to do this shoot, the seven of them were the first and only people who came to mind, not just because of our personal relationships, but also because Dash & Dot, as a brand, caters to people who want their clothing to reflect their values — clothing that’s mindful yet sleek and stylish, that’s thoughtfully designed yet functional.”
“There’s Aditi, who’s one of the strongest and most resilient people I’ve ever known; Adishree, who’s unmatched in elegance and grace; Aashica, who’s intelligent and unwavering, unaffected by people or circumstance, with a clarity of thought that’s truly rare; Tarini, who personifies confidence and self-belief; Kirat, who finds strength in her femininity; Ayesha, who doesn’t take no for an answer and has defined an industry in this country by breaking through doors none of us even knew existed; and Kimaya, whose youthful energy is exuberant and infectious!”
Aditi Mehra dons numerous artistic hats. She’s a graphic designer, interior designer and artist, and also has experience in product design. Though she describes her personal style as relaxed, she loves the clothes at Dash & Dot because “I can wear these clothes as a 35-year-old, but I can also see 25-year-olds and 45-year-olds wearing them with equal panache. They can be dressed up or down and are universally appealing. I love the fits, the finish, the sheer variety of designs and the price point. It’s really nice to have a homegrown designer label that’s so unique and accessible.”
Hailing from a family of hoteliers, Aashica Khanna is currently the director of famed wellness resort, Ananda in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand. Having pursued a degree from Cornell, she planned to work abroad, but the 2008 recession made her shift back home to work in the family business — a fact she’s proud of as she believes no one could have possibly taught her more in this field than her own family. Speaking of Aashray’s Dash & Dot collection, she shares, “I always wear the label’s clothes and keep getting asked by people who I’m wearing! Ashray has a great aesthetic sense, and he uses fantastic materials. He makes clothes that make people look good.”
This young model divides her time between New Delhi and New York and loves all things fashion. Modelling happened by chance during the pandemic, but Kimaya Singh finds it a fun and fulfilling profession. Eventually, she hopes to be involved in special needs education. When asked about the designer’s new line that she’s wearing, she says! “I love everything! It’s a mix of sexy, fun and fashion forward. Even the dress I’m wearing today is modest in length but interesting because it’s sheer. I resonate with the sexy-casual vibe as it allows me to be both feminine and tomboyish.”
This actor and television anchor never intended to enter show business, but an early advertisement contract with a popular beauty brand opened the doors of the industry for her. From South Indian movies to unscripted travel shows, Kirat Bhattal has done it all. Her personal style is simple, clean and comfortable, but she loves the clothes she has on now as they push her out of her comfort zone. “Ashray understands what people need. I live in jeans and T-shirts, so personally, I wouldn’t gravitate towards this dress I’m wearing today. But after putting it on, I absolutely love it. His clothes have flair and flamboyance, and they can’t be boxed into any one kind of style,” she asserts.
Currently the chairperson and founder of digital agency RepIndia, Ayesha Chenoy has juggled many roles over the years. This includes a stint as an investment banker in London, founding a women-led dating website and authoring a mental health book, To the Bravest Person I Know, during the pandemic. Her casual-chic vibe of daily dressing has not deterred her from appreciating and wearing outfits from Ashray’s collection. She explains: “The label broke the mould in terms of providing contemporary wearable attire. This is fashion that can be worn to work and just as easily be dressed up for the night. The clothes are svelte and incredibly sophisticated, yet edgy. There aren’t a lot of brands that can do that with such ease.”
This multi-hyphenate is the co-founder of AGENC, a branding and marketing full-service agency, and a certified material consultant whose research and design lab, Reformary, looks into healthy and sustainable building materials. Plus, she also helps her parents run their boutique heritage hotel, Hari Niwas Palace, in Jammu. Adishree Singh believes Ashray’s latest designs complement her multifaceted personality. “I love the flexibility of his clothes. I have something for every occasion and every moment.
I also like that an outfit could look a particular way on me, but could completely transform on someone else. There’s a lot of humility in his creations, which comes with an exchange of ideas that makes his practice stand out,” she exclaims.
Popular content creator and founder of personalised gifting service, The Initial Studio, Tarini Manchanda is a well-known fashionista whose sartorial advice many seek. She thoroughly loves fashion and enjoys styling outfits in unique ways, which is perhaps why this designer collection appeals to her. She says, “Ashray’s clothes are very cool, very current and very wearable. I like this collection, in particular, because it has a more festive, blingy vibe. I think it’s hard to find a fun party look at the price point of Dash & Dot, and I really appreciate the value that Ashray’s clothes offer us.”
Interview: Noor Anand Chawla; Photos: Abhishek Khandelwal; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Hair & Makeup: Anu Kaushik & Team
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s January 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!