I set my own rules: Sabyasachi Mukherjee

Ten minutes is all Sabyasachi Mukherjee has. “Can you keep the interview short,” I’m asked, as the announcement of his participation in the finale of Lakme Fashion Week’s upcoming Winter Festive show is made. Is ten minutes enough to recap the 14-year journey of this master of colour, cut and construction, I wonder. But I realised that Sabyasachi in rapid-fire mode can make ten minutes seem like twenty! Excerpts:

What is it about LFW that made you return?

It’s here that I first made a mark as a designer. I’m familiar with the format, and know the people. It is like a homecoming. The good thing about LFW is that everything is taken care of – from building the set to inviting people. So I have the freedom to focus on the clothes. It is like putting together a complete show, but doing only half the work!

Finales are a challenge – given the expectations of people in the fraternity, profiles of attendees and the intangible themes created by Lakme for interpretation into garments…

Well, it’s not at all difficult for me. This is my fifth finale at LFW. Once the make-up and hair are set, it is easy to imagine the look and what the girls must wear. I’m way too senior to worry about pre-show stress. My biggest pressure comes from whether I will like what I create. Beyond that, even the critics’ reaction doesn’t really concern me.

Will this line too be about Indian-ness?

Whether I do Western, Eastern or a combination, I always use Indian handcrafts, and all my clothes are handmade. Traditional textiles, block prints, weaves and embroidery are a constant in my collections. The theme being “Illuminate”, this line is about red-carpet clothes with a strong shimmer quotient.

Sunday was National Handloom Day. Considering our diverse range of homespun textiles, do you think everyday must be celebrated as handloom day in India?

Absolutely. It is mandatory at my stores. My staff wears only handloom saris or kurtas made of hand-woven fabric. My Instagram hashtag says ‘Wearing handloom everyday.’

Social media plays a significant role in promoting tradition. Smriti Irani’s ‘I wear handloom’ campaign on Twitter and the 100 Saree Pact are recent examples. Isn’t it time designers too found new ways to promote heritage?

Yes. As more and more Western brands enter the market, our designers must first establish an identity of their own. The Zaras of the world are bringing active prêt into the country, so it is important for us to revive the market for Indian clothes. Reinventing tradition and rethinking marketing strategies are critical at this point.

Has the hustle of today’s business taken fun away from fashion? How do you strike a balance between creative expression and commercial viability?

Oh, that’s very simple. I set my own rules. For instance, this year, I had too much on my calendar. I didn’t do ramp shows, I only had a showing on Instagram. Established designers must create new templates that suit their creativity instead of allowing the market to set the pace for them. Because, at the end of the day, only if you have the time and space for creative expression, can you create beautiful clothes that determine the durability of your brand.

If you were to spell out two major problems faced by the fashion world, what would they be?

Lack of originality. Lack of self-belief.

Fashion has evolved into a glamorous industry, and today, many youngsters want to be part of it. But most of what we see on the ramp and in the retail space are risk-free repetitions.

Well, for designers to evolve, the market has to evolve. But the mood is changing. There are designers who are willing to push boundaries and clients who are ready to experiment. Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are changing the way people see and respond to fashion. The horizons are widening. This is a wonderful time for young designers to launch their labels and sustain their inventiveness.

Very few Indian designers have taken the effort to document fashion. What about you?

Yes, I will at some point in time get down to writing about my brand. But for that, I will first have to find the right publisher!

Many corporate players are keen on collaborating with designers.

I receive so many proposals for collaborations that I refuse one every day! I am collaborating with Asian Paints, Forever Mark and Christian Louboutin. Another huge one is coming up – but I will not be able to speak about it at the moment.

Do seasons really matter any more in the world of fashion?

Global warming is making designers understand the importance of season-defying clothing. And people too, I feel, don't shop for seasons any more. They just want beautiful clothes.

Can you update us on your forays into jewellery design and interiors?

I have collaborated with Hyderabad’s Kishandas & Company to create some iconic pieces that are hugely popular — and of course, plagiarised! I have a line coming up for Forever Mark. As for interiors, I wanted to design homes, but people did not seem to have enough confidence in me! (laughs) So I ended up doing up my own stores. I have also done up the Cinema Suite for the Taj in London. Celebrities who have stayed in the hotel have appreciated it. A significant collaboration in interiors is happening in October.

Your suggestions to keep traditions going…

People need to be educated about handmade textiles and crafts. A time will come when China will lose out to India because as people become aware, they will only want to support products that are ethically sourced and foster craft communities. Surprisingly, the new millennials are in favour of luxury that is completely handmade. I see that as a positive sign.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 4:35:37 PM |

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