Fashion

Social media has brought out the exhibitionist in all of us, says Sabyasachi Mukherjee

The choker necklace sits lightly on soft red velvet — a band of large emeralds encircled with diamonds, with tear-drop shaped emeralds dangling off each. There are a pair of dramatic earrings: neck-grazing strings of pearls that end with slender crescents shaped out of 22 karat gold and embedded with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. A bride clad in a red, cream and gold Kanjeevaram, glows softly against a blurry background, her skin as luminescent as the jewellery that adorns her: a nethi chutti, pair of jhumkas, necklaces of different length, kamarbhand and bangles. Opulent, traditional, classic, intricate... these are the words that flit across your mind when you peek into Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s Instagram account.

He likes the way social media helps him reach out directly to the customer, says the designer who has just landed in the city to present his jewellery. “We want to show the world our best. Everything on Instagram is curated well: we often toil all night to get the colour gradient right,” he says. He personally writes the note that accompanies every picture, drawing from his own experience, impressions and knowledge, to create a sartorial biography. “As an artist, you regurgitate all that you see around you,” he says. And all that he sees and experiences feed into his work: from the music of Leonard Cohen and Edith Piaf to Frida Kahlo and hot buttered toast.

Social media has brought out the exhibitionist in all of us, says Sabyasachi Mukherjee

A woman wearing a hand-embroidered pink lehenga and positively decadent jewellery, flanked by a man in a hand-embroidered silk sherwani and a hand-printed organza safa, for instance, is somehow inspired by Satyajit Ray’s Jalsaghar or The Music Room, “perhaps one of my favourite films of all times”. Then there is a heavily- sequined skirt and crop top with jewelled fringing , in gilt and gold inspired by Paris-Calcutta 1923 that talk of “languid bodies swaying to jazz, rivers of ecstasy running wild, diamonds entangled in enraptured orgies of sequinned gossamer clad nubile limbs,” he writes in an Instagram post.

“Social media has brought out the exhibitionist in all of us,” says Mukherjee, who has made Instagram the forum on which he prefers to launch his latest collections, starting with Firduas in 2016. It also proved to be an impetus of sorts to start jewellery in the first place. “Today for a bride, her WhatsApp or Facebook profile picture is more important than the groom himself,” he laughs. Which means that, unlike in a full length picture where your entire outfit is displayed, “it is now about 30 % clothing and 70 % jewellery. Also, he was finding it hard to find jewellery that complemented his clothing. “People ended up wearing jewellery that did not match the sensibility of the outfit,” he says, pointing out that millennial consumers don’t have much of a relationship with jewellery. “It is not like how it was in earlier days when jewellery, like music and dance, was part of the education process,” he says, a trifle ruefully.

Then, there is the jewellery market, that continues to see jewellery as an investment rather than a piece of art. “There is no real craftsmanship left; they look at jewellery as a product and don’t understand design,” says Mukherjee, who works closely with karigars all across the country to produce jewellery of “ïntrinsic beauty”, using techniques that follow the old principles of jewellery making. “You can see the difference between something mass generated and something that is created by hand. Everything slows down but what you get is exceptional.”

Social media has brought out the exhibitionist in all of us, says Sabyasachi Mukherjee

Building a strong foundation

Though few people know this, jewellery came before the clothes says the designer. “I used to make costume jewellery out of wood and buttons and shells,” he laughs. But the passion stretched all the way to the State of his origin: Bengal. “My grandfather used to buy a lot of beautiful jewellery for my mother, grandmother and aunts. I grew up seeing that,” says the 1999 graduate from the National Institute of Fashion Technology who started his eponymous label a few months after graduation.

His father, on the other hand, came as a refugee from Bangladesh and, “taught me the importance of creating value; without a proper foundation there is no value,” says the designer who believes in keeping things as classic and timeless as possible. “I don’t believe in the theory that new things needs to be made in six months . The fashion industry has made a lot of money, feeding on people’s insecurities. Once you buy a Sabya you can wear it all your life,” says the designer.

He recalls how Amartaya Sen’s daughter Nandana once gifted him a 1918 edition of Vogue. “I flipped through the pages and noticed that very few of the brands advertised back then are still alive today,” he says.

Except one, “two little sketches of a brand that made me cry,” he says. The brand? Tiffany. “Businesses stay alive because they are built on a solid foundation. All my life, I have lived by one motto: be the change you want to see. I did that with clothes and I want to do that with jewellery.”

Though soft-spoken and intensely polite, Mukherjee is unapologetically his own person; his opinions are candid and unfettered by political correctness. He doesn’t hesitate to criticise the industry he constantly dresses and embellishes. “Bollywoodisation is a subculture that is happening across the country,” he says, dismissively. “If there is a globalisation, I can’t see why there can’t be an Indianisation. And it doesn’t have to go the Bollywood route.”

 

Sabyasachi, Calcutta presents a jewellery exhibition in Chennai till April 12 at Taj Coromandel, Nungambakkam. By appointment only. Call 9500028810 or 9840388026 for appointments.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 6:06:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/biographical-by-design/article23500059.ece

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