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Lakme Fall / Winter2009

Lakme Spring/ Summer 2009 Bridal Sutra

New York Spring/Summer 2009 New York Spring/Summer 2009

The Man, the Muse and his


city, because everyone is trying to buy European foreign fabrics. So this was my way of lashing out at them, saying everything from India can also be very beautiful, you just have to know how to use it.

Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee: the man of the cloth talks Frida Kahlo, khadi and home-spun pride

Lakme/Wills had a touch of current events in that the looks — turbans, layers, lots of pearls piled on — were reminiscent of Grey Gardens’s character Eddie Bouvier Beale. Was that on purpose or purely incidental? That was just a coincidence, it was not my intent or on purpose.

Stephanie Rivers How did you start out? Actually I started by default in 2002. I was going to get myself an engineering degree, and I didn’t want a desk job, so I thought maybe fashion would be a good option because there was a fashion school opening in Calcutta, which was next to my house. Had you always been interested in fashion? I was always interested in a little bit of clothing, because I used to do theatre, and I used to dress up all of the actors and actresses with dish towels and clothing line clothes, so I thought it would just be a natural progression of what I would like to do and it would not be a boring desk job. Were you interested in fashion from the time you were very young, and did it just develop over time or did it all come at once? I just liked women with a lot of personality and who wore good clothes. Growing up, I was completely interested in Madonna, who was living her Like a Virgin days and I liked the way she picked up elements of street-wear and made them into fabulous clothing, and how she kept changing over the years. And I was very struck by the beauty business, the Miss India pageants and Bollywood. It wasn’t a very masculine thing to do in middle-class Bengal, because my father was terrified what his friends would say if they found out I wanted to become a designer. So it was like a little bit of an uphill struggle, but I survived. You are known for your inventive use of fabrics, unusual choice of fabrics and modernity mixed with heritage. How do you go about putting your collections together? It’s more instinctive than really very planned, I’m a Piscean, so I keep flitting between my ideas, but I have always had this very strong sense of textiles. I love Indian textiles because I really think they are the best the world could ever get, and I always like original hand-done ones because I like that little imperfection that comes out of handmade textiles. So I mix them with a lot of modern elements because I think if you are just going to use something that has been there for a very long time, then it is very archaic... so it’s nice to make it fit in with modern society. Do you design more than one collection each season? I do about 16 collections a year. The fun thing about working in India is there are so many festivals, and so many sub-pockets... there is a collection for Diwali, a Christmas holiday collection, a summer collection, a winter collection, a collection inspired by Bollywood — it just goes on and on. They are not as extensive as the European or the mainstream American collections, but there are small-pocket collections, because in India you can’t make a collection and expect it to last for a season. Shoppers want to see a collection in stores almost every week. So how often are you putting things in stores with that high demand, that type of scheduling? Well, it’s very tough especially for an Indian designer who has to pay his own electricity bills, run his own factory, pay his taxes, and not really have too many people developing businesses for him. It is very difficult to satiate a market that is as demanding as India. You burn out very easily.

Photos : From the house of Sabyasatchi Mukherjee

Lakme Fall/ Winter 2008 Sanctuary


people he’d love to meet or loved to have met

◆ His

Queen Elizabeth II, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Indira Gandhi, and Napoleon.

◆ His

◆ The

Dries Van Noten. I like Dries for only one reason, because he cares a rat’s behind about what people think. He is consistent year, after year, after year. Many editors don’t get him, even the editors, because there is a very subtle evolution that comes from year-to-year. Dries will stand very tall after the recession because he has many customers. You will never go to him for the ‘it’ handbag, but you will keep on going back to him for what he does best, and he knows it.

person he’d have liked to dress. Audrey Hepburn. She was the epitome of style, had grace and had compassion. Grace and a sense of style come from within. Oh, and I would really, really like to dress Frida Kahlo. I don’t think there is anybody who has interested me more than Frida. I copy her, copy her to the ‘T’. She is like an insect in my head that I cannot take out. I am very inspired by Frida, her lifestyle, her paintings. For me she epitomes true style... even today, she is much more forward than the fashion industry because what she did in her time was something so forward and her fashion came from the fact that she was who she was, she wasn’t trying to be someone else, she was rooted in where she came from, she was rooted in Mexico. I remember a line from the movie, and from her biography, where she said “I have to go back to Mexico because that is who I am. I cannot be here in New York because this is not who I am, or who I want to be.” For me, she was my hero.

You were the only Indian designer represented in the American Spring/Summer format 2009, and you are one of the only Indian designers that carries continually. Why do you think that’s so? Ask them, I have no idea why (laughs)! The people at Style. com like my work and I am one of the few Indian designers who’s very proud of his heritage. The world looks at individuality; they also look at the point of view that comes from the land you come from. I think designers are like spices in a spice pocket; if pepper is missing, you give them pepper. For me, the world is inundated with cookie-cutter fashion, almost every label looks the same... so when you come from a country that is as tropical as India, and when you do things that they can’t find anywhere else in the world, it’s always going to be an item of luxury for most people.

favourite movie.

Frida. favourite fashion designer.

◆ His

daily uniform.

A GAP shirt and a pair of jeans. I like GAP because it is sensible, sophisticated, easy, and it doesn’t bite your pocket. ◆ If

luxury were a person, who would it be? Grace Kelly.

◆ If

luxury were a place, where would it be? Jaipur.

◆ If

luxury were a thing, what would it be? Time.

With the global economic crisis, many American and European fashion houses had to go back to making good old back-to-basics clothes. Did you celebrate the fact that you had always gone your own way, produced top-notch clothing, embraced your heritage and what your country had to offer? Eh, I always believed that with or without recession... this entire collection of luxury is a survival of the fittest, where you can stand tall. If you are proud of who you are and where you come from, at some point you need to stand up and stand tall, celebrating where you come from, who you are. In many ways, I feel the recession is a boon, everyone has to go back to the basics. Name five items a woman should have. A great scarf, sensible walking shoes, a great pair of jeans, a white shirt that you can dress up or dress down, and a fabulous piece of statement jewellery. And with all of these five together, you can actually have a fascinating wardrobe. Name three items from your last two collections that a woman must have. In New York there was a beautiful black chiffon top that was almost very Edith Piaf, so that was a nice staple; one of my scalloped, patchwork miniskirts, and I definitely think one of my caftan tops; and from India, I think everything because that collection was very special to me and I wanted the people, at least the women of India to buy the indigo. Because the indigo producers in India are really living below the poverty line and they are doing the finest specimens of textiles that the Indians don’t pay attention to but the Japanese market is buying in whole heaps. It is such a shame that India only realises what it produces after it gets a validation from the rest. In looking back over your career thus far, would you change anything? I would probably want to be a little more communicative because I am terrible with my PR, and I have a phobia of interacting with people, especially a lot of people. I wish I had become a lot more of a people person. What is your favourite fabric to work with? Khadi. It is the fabric that was made popular by Mahatma Gandhi in India. It is basically very humble cotton, but because of its very irregular weave, it is real luxury.

Favourite colour combination? Why? Indigo and ivory. I think there is almost a very classical nunWhat was the inspiration for the Lakme/Wills show in like quality to it, and I like women in prim clothing. India, because that was different from the S/S 2009 collection shown abroad? Where do you go to recharge your creative batteries? This entire collection was about my anger at the Indian com- I go to the beach. I am a Piscean, so any large body of water munity, the fashion-minded community, and it was about excites me. I actually go to Phuket a lot, otherwise it is just the social hypocrisy about Indian textiles. If a fabric comes sitting in my living room reading a book. from China and it’s machine-made, just because it comes from China, people end up thinking it’s fabulous. If the fab- Where will you be vacationing this year? ric is hand-made in India, involved 18 different processes and I want to go to Istanbul if I can. sold at one-tenth the price of the fabric you got from China, nobody in India celebrates it. If John Paul Gaultier would What haven’t you done that you would like to do fashpick it up and do a collection, then they would say it’s so fan- ion wise? tastic. So, I wanted to do a collection entirely done with the I think I have been too severe with my fashion... I just need humble Indian fabric, done by very skilled weavers, whose to loosen up. families are dying out since they don’t have patronage in the

My Weekly Fashion Column  
My Weekly Fashion Column  

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