INDepth: With Almost Gods

INDepth: With Almost Gods

Delhi based Almost Gods is shifting away from the norms of a quintessential streetwear label with its dynamic designs and diverse collection of apparel and accessories.

INDepth by FTC is an ongoing exploration of all the uncut diamonds that are making their mark in India's growing cultural community.

The brainchild of Dhruv Khurana, Delhi based streetwear label 'Almost Gods' is all about breaking barriers and pushing boundaries through their eclectic, nonconformist, and experimental styles.

FTC caught up with the founder and creative director of the brand to talk more about the label, its relatively new yet unique presence in the streetwear community, and what the future holds.

First impressions: A grounded and friendly individual with a cheerful disposition, Khurana's ability to carry a conversation with ease helps break the strictly conventional atmosphere of a typical 'formal' interview and helps get a better insight on the man behind two successful design ventures, a handful of patents and trademarks, as well as degrees and accomplishments from some of the best institutions around the world.

Starting in chronological order, to better understand the events that have led to his most recent success with Almost Gods, Khurana's journey began as an economics major at Tufts University, specialising in International Relations where he graduated Magna Cum Laude.

With his sharp business acumen and innovative mind, Khurana was a part of various clubs, societies, and fraternities at his university and participated in several summer programmes, volunteer work, semester exchanges, and additionally, also has a certification in the Fundamentals of Business from Harvard University.

His venture into the fashion industry began around the last semester of his time at university. When asked about the initial shift in professional interests, Khurana states his inclination towards fashion was brought to light in his senior year final paper, written on the prolific rapper, designer and entrepreneur - Kanye West.

"The paper focused on talking about the artist through a lens of futurism - in the sense of an African-American Person Of Colour pioneering an entire movement related to music, culture and fashion."

Dhruv Khurana

His exploration of this topic further led him to his intrigue in maximalist poetry and culture, as well as the discourse surrounding certain subjects.

Khurana is no stranger to the in and outs of running a creative business successfully and has also founded 'BadgePack Designs' - a brand that produces customisable bags employing a specialised, velcro-base for which he holds 2 patents and 12 trademarks. The entrepreneur has worked with big names such as Disney, Nickelodeon, SixFlags and Hello Kitty on this previous venture and expanded stores in 10 different countries in South East Asia, making BadgePack a huge success.

Entering the customisation territory, an inherent aspect of street style itself, Khurana was unknowingly delving into the culture through his personalised approach to creativity and sites the urge to do something more culturally impactful - with a particular story and vision to tell - as his main inspiration behind finally starting 'Almost Gods'.

"I realised that streetwear isn't something that is just American - it's a medium of expression and is highly prominent in the cultural sphere right now. I began wondering if there was a way to enter the field even with zero experience of understanding how clothes work or what clothes are meant to be. I wanted it to be more about using them as a medium to start a discussion and that's how Almost Gods was born."

Dhruv Khurana

Inculcating design sensibilities that pay homage to Indian handicraft, bold graphics visuals that are bound to start an interesting conversation and a myriad of colours and patterns, each piece in the label's collections so far is as unique as it is rebellious.

The brand's name sparks curiosity and potential dialogue just as the clothes do, and the story behind the label's title is just as interesting as the name itself. With postmodernism being a popular theme back in the early days of conceptualising the brand, Khurana mentions that his interest in certain Japanese stories revolving around the same philosophical narrative, told to him by his professors during his days at university, were a great influence.

“Postmodernism was like the thing of the time, everyone was obsessed with Nietzsche and other really depressing people and so was I! I was super into Japanese culture and some of my professors in college were these fantastic Japanese authors with interesting yet somewhat skewed perceptions of this philosophy."

Dhruv Khurana

Like many of us, while going through an unfortunate rough patch in his romantic life, the creative director imbibed the post-modernist philosophy of 'nothing means anything' until the complete anti-thesis for the same caught his attention and eventually lead him on the path to founding the basis of his successful label's storyline.

"The biggest counter to the concept of postmodernism is this mythological story called the Story of Sisyphus, which in a gist says that the things that you give meaning to are the things that matter, and that’s kind of what gives your life purpose. To extrapolate that, we thought about the idea of creating something that is a celebration of being human - of us as a civilisation.”

Dhruv Khurana

Khurana further elaborates on the thought process behind the peculiar name of the brand, justifying the need to acknowledge the sheer power and significance we as humans hold - a fiesta of everything we are obsessed with, things we have achieved and are yet to.

“I mean its insane to think that dinosaurs were around for millions of years and they didn’t go to the moon and we've been around for about a few thousand and we’re heading to mars! It's this entire evolution that we need to celebrate. So Almost Gods came from the idea that currently there's been this almost leveling of a playing field where humans have never been as close to this idea of being a god as they are now.”

Dhruv Khurana

He continues,

"200 years ago nobody would have even dared to imagine everything we have accomplished as a society and species and it would have been reserved as something only a god would be able to do. So the ideology stems from that thought process, that in a way, we’re almost gods."

Dhruv Khurana

The brand's designs are an inclusively diverse take on varying inspirations that are constantly evolving and dynamic. With hundreds of up and coming streetwear labels in the current space, it is easy to get lost in the commotion and sheer overwhelming nature of the industry – often boxing in oneself to a particular design direction or aesthetic and therefore limiting creativity and outreach.

However, Almost Gods strays away from the convention of being a typical streetwear label and focuses more on the narrative and meaning behind the direction of each new collection.

On what inspires him to constantly create and come up with new ideas for the label, Khurana reveals,

"I don’t necessarily just gravitate towards fashion for inspiration. There are definitely fashion brands that I'm obsessed with like Doublet and Bode. Kanye West, Elon musk and the mars project, underground French rap, even Coca-Cola – I'm just looking at stuff all around my room right now and I mean that just goes to show that it's pretty much anything and everything!”

Dhruv Khurana

His motto for inspiration striking encompasses being receptive and curious. Everything can be inspiring in the most minute or gigantic ways, it's all about knowing where to look and grasping what you can or what stands out to you from there.

“Coca Cola for example completely transformed the culture as we know it, and it all started with the smallest idea. Christmas exists as we know it because of Coca-Cola, Santa is recognised in his iconic red and white outfit because of Coca-Cola. And I mean they literally used to sell cocaine – think about it, that’s insane!”

Dhruv Khurana

With a design process that is equally as fluid and malleable as his thought process, Khurana laughs self deprecatingly when asked about the same and states he's not the most dextrous person.

"I think I'm the least dextrous person ever, but I guess I have the ability to think pretty weirdly, and given my education and varied background, I can delve into different moulds quickly. So, I'm quite adaptive that way. The way I currently structure the design process is all about initial research and learning more about things I would want to talk about – coming up with a segmented story and finding ways to extrapolate and express them into cohesive creative pieces.”

Dhruv Khurana

He continues and also talks about his favourite piece by the brand up until now, the Last Supper jacket.

“I come up with my broad renditions of the designs through really bad sketches, to be honest, but I have a fantastic team that takes it from there and then actualises them, which in itself is a couple of months worth process. If I were to say my favourite piece of all time, it’s the Last Supper jacket. I think that piece perfectly encapsulates us as a brand. The storytelling takes the last supper motif and puts it in a very different context of fallen angels. Its been done through a collaboration with an Indian artist – Vikas Kalra - so it celebrates India whole bringing that to the rest of the world. A large part of our audience also lies outside India so it's great to be able to engage with them and showcase our domestic talents.”

Dhruv Khurana

Seeing an initial idea come to life, become tangible, and then be worn and loved by other people holds a different joy altogether. On the interesting process behind the culmination of the jacket, Khurana expands,

“Beyond that, there is also a lot of Indian handiwork that’s gone into that piece. There's Zardozi hand embroidery, beadwork – so it’s a celebration of things that are very much Indian along with enriching details that a lot of brands don’t do and something that we can exclusively bring to people. But the story behind creating the painting that’s on the jacket supersedes all. It was me and the artist and a bottle of Jack Daniels that was finished between the hours of 12 to 6 am. We actually have the painting hanging in our office.”

Dhruv Khurana

With the Pandemic wreaking havoc on all plans for the year, Khurana says the brand is finally overcoming the unfortunate setback and has multiple new things that are going to be released very soon.

"Corona definitely slowed us down. We had a solid 6-month plan that pretty much went to trash. But now we're getting back on schedule, so starting September, people should start seeing the first of the upcoming drops. It has taken us about a year and a half to be able to figure out exactly what our voice is and where we fit in the community in terms of our storytelling, but now that we know that, we’re doubling down on it. So it's going to get a lot weirder, it's going to get a lot more fun and as far as the story-telling goes, it's going to get a lot deeper with the new collections as well."

Dhruv Khurana

The word culture holds several different meanings when compared to the various people, backgrounds, fields, and ideologies that encompass it. On his understanding and take on the current cultural sphere, Khurana reveals what Almost Gods wants to contribute to the space.

"With Almost Gods we aren’t looking at just influencing streetwear or fashion, we’re trying to influence the culture behind it all and create a discourse within the culture. When you say ‘For The Culture’ and what culture means to me today, I think its this absolutely fantastic, really fluid thing right now that no longer just exists in a mass convention."

Dhruv Khurana

"It shows that microniches, microcultures and communities can exist globally and that’s the reality that exists now throughout all spheres be it fashion or otherwise. All of us are engaging with that culture in our own way and we’re all addressing a different audience, so to me it's not just one thing, it’s a culmination of several things that coexist together.”

Dhruv Khurana

He further elaborates,

"Fashion isn’t just a black Chanel dress walking down the runway anymore, it's absolutely nuts! The boundaries have been lifted and even what my peers Jay (Jaywalking) and Ambar and Avni (Six5Six) are talking about, are all the aforementioned microniches and micro-communities that are interacting with each other fluidly and creating new subcultures.”

Dhruv Khurana

Hosting a melange of products such as T-shirts, jackets, co-ordinate sets, accessories, and even shoelaces, Almost Gods has something for everyone. To get a closer look at some of the labels iconic designs such as the 'Garden of Earthly Desires' jacket, the 'Oversized Drape Hoodie' and the aforementioned 'Last Supper' jacket amongst several others, head over to the brand's official website.

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