Sunil Sethi tells SHALINI SHAH fashion is not the beginning and end of it all

Sunil Sethi is a little thrilled; nothing to do with the Autumn/ Winter edition of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week that kicks of in the Capital next month or his role as the president of the Fashion Design Council of India that organises it (Though he does hint at a collaboration with the Ministry of Textiles, which will put Banaras handlooms on the fashion week ramp). At the interior and home décor fair “India Design ID 2013” at the NSIC Grounds in Okhla, New Delhi, he’s taken up a lot of space; while the main pavilion plays host to designer carpets created by Sunil Sethi Design Alliance, the pavilion showcases concept spaces comprising furniture and furnishings made by the company for well-known Italian designer Paola Navone. Product and interior designer Marcel Wanders, who toured the sections, has come up with some high praise, and Sethi is glad his non-fashion work is generating curiosity.

“Contrary to what people know about me — that I’m only an out-and-out fashion person — my business in fashion is only five per cent of my overall business. FDCI is a very recent foray for me; only five years ago I started to do that. But all my life, for the last 20 years, my main business has been in representing people and being a sourcing agent for many companies, leading companies for home furnishing, textile, handicraft and lifestyle products. That is actually my specialisation. In the past I was only doing all this, this is what I am,” he ponders (Sethi started the parent company, buying firm Alliance Merchandising Company, way back in 1987).

Milan-based Paola Navone is amongst the world’s most important product designers and architects. Pioneer of the so-called “shabby chic”, Paola has worked with companies like Armani Casa, Knoll International, Gervasoni, Roche Babois, Poliform, Viva Ceramica and Baxter. The pieces on display at India Design ID 2013 are from a decade of collaboration — conceptualised by Paola, executed by Sunil Sethi Design Alliance. “That’s why we were not selling anything; the products you saw are already selling to the best brands in the world, pieces that are seen at events like Maison et Object and Salon del Mobile… We just thought this was a good opportunity to showcase what India is capable of doing in design, that our products are so superior that the best companies in the world want to buy from here.”

Two years ago, Sunil Sethi Design Alliance designed a set of carpets recreating paintings by artists like S.H. Raza, Manjit Bawa and Paresh Maity and designs by fashion designers Sabyasachi, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Rohit Bal, to name a few, the sales proceeds from which went towards People For Animals. This time Manish Arora has come up with five carpet designs. “He’s ordered one of his own designs for his apartment in Paris; it’s a good thing that the designer is so happy with the product,” Sethi adds.