Living museum- Sabyasachi Mukherjee

sabaysachiby Suman Tarafdar
He’s clearly the go to designer for any Indian bride. Legions of fans swear by his signature opulent style, steeped in homage to India’s design and textile traditions. His efforts to revive traditional Indian textiles and ethnic wear, especially the sari, have greatly helped in positioning the garment at a new level of style. The repertoire for Kolkata-based Sabyasachi however goes well beyond the sari. The recently opened

flagship store in Delhi is an ample reflection, a veritable museum, not just for his work, but also his design and life philosophy, a living room where clients can indulge in his magnificent art to their heart’s content, he tells Suman Tarafdar

How has Delhi, as a market, been for you over the years? Is the woman here any different in her choices or aesthetics?

Ours is a very democratic brand and all our clothes all over India have a common representation. The Delhi customer likes to dress up. Delhi has a vibrant culture of eating out and socialising and people in Delhi like to embrace formal fashion. Compared to other cities in Delhi people like to shop for a head to toe look when they are going out. Everybody wants to appear taller and slimmer so everything which is columnal in shape with monotone colour palette from head to toe does the trick the best.

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How do you define the Sabyasachi woman? How is she evolving?

I have always been India Proud and am nationalist in my view. The aesthetic of my brand always remains the same, which is ‘Personalized imperfection of the human hand’. A Sabyasachi wearer for me is someone who is comfortable and confident of herself. A woman, who wears the lines on her face beautifully, eats her carbs and laughs a lot. I believe that clothes should just be an extension of one’s intellect. So what you are in your mind, are what you should be on the outside.

A lot of Indian women like wearing clothing that define them as Indian. I might be doing western clothing or Indian but there is always a common denominator and that is India. If you look at the approach or the artistry, there is always a strong indigenous feel. Whether cool, sexy and sophisticated or timeless and classic – this is always the common DNA of my brand.

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What are the main inspirations for your design? Have there been any places that have inspired your work?

Meaningful design is always about acknowledging who you are and where you come from. Hence for me a reflection of Calcutta in what I do for example, is not a necessity, it’s a natural instinct. I am inspired by our cultural past.

I draw inspiration from everything around me, be it people, books, films, the forest, and often silence. It is almost like I have a camera fitted in my head which keeps recording and when I work on my collections the camera plays it back for me.

In this channel setting generation, you are made to touch everything without absorbing anything. This is the biggest cause of burn out. As I mentioned, I am discovering the music of silence in my life which is currently too cluttered. Silence is my inspiration.

Meaningful design is always about acknowledging who you are and where you come from. That inspires me.

For example, right now space design is becoming a passion. My stores are my indulgence. I worked very hard and immersed myself in designing the Delhi store where you can browse through a world detached from reality.

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How do you see the trends to search out local roots by many individual designers with the messaging for a pan-Indian design sensibility being promoted by the governments and institutions? Is it important to have an ‘Indian’ design identity a la ‘Italian fashion’ or ‘Belgian’ or ‘Japanese’ etc, and how would it impact designers?

store-sabysachiIt is very important for Indian designers to have Indian identity because right now the concept of fashion has become percolated through mass boutiques and world is looking to shop more and more for special things that are more region specific where they can identify and celebrate the source. So in that context if Indian designers would start making clothes without a strong Indian accent to them they would lose out both to Indian and a global market.

What do you see as dominant trends in couture, and fashion in general in India today?

I find fashion juvenile as we are trying to homogenize individuals in an attempt to grow our industry in the larger scale. I think fashion’s initial quest was to create individualism but right now what it is actually doing is only homogenizing.

According to me, the coming years is going to be about beauty with maturity. We are now in a fashion era with maturity, and are able to cut out the floss in clothing and concentrate on the core. Indian bridal fashion is becoming more and more mature and we are stepping into a big revolution of going back into the basics.

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To what extent is couture in India today limited to wedding wear?

In India organized retail sector is still very poor and corporate investments are tentative. Hence for a designer in India to grow big in both stature and turnover, the only route option is wedding wear. The bridal market is very important for trickle-down theory in business.

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I think the market for bridal wear has grown extensively over the past few years .It’s almost become a revolution right now. If that didn’t happen my brand wouldn’t have grown. Bridal wear one of our big businesses and there are lot of myths about bridal market that I wanted to demystify for larger audience in India.

You have to travel a lot on work. What do you like, and dislike, about travel?

When travel becomes routine it is not fun anymore and fatigue of repetition sets in but travel also opens up many possibilities for inspiration which are often more tactical than reading about them in theory and design books. So for me travel is still the most potent source of inspiration.

Designing can be lonely work. To what extent do forums and institutions help? How constructive a role do they play currently?

Forums and institutions can only give you logistical support and only help in tying the industry together and assist in trend forecasting. As far as design is concerned it is really an individual’s body of work rather than anything influenced by a forum or an institution.

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