Enter any Starbucks and you’ll see people on dates, and love stories blossoming, Sabyasachi Mukherjee tells me. “In a way Starbucks is in the business of matchmaking and we, in the business of weddings. It made complete sense.” He is talking about his latest collaboration, Starbucks India x Sabyasachi, and say what you might about his over-the-top marketing strategies and bridal looks, but you cannot deny him his way with words and his business acumen.
We suppose the designer was in a pensive mood because, unlike his other collaborations, this one has been rather quiet. Starbucks India x Sabyasachi, releasing on April 12 as an exclusive to India, is a line of drinkware, consisting of ceramic cups and steel tumblers. They all bear the signature Toile de Jouy flora and fauna art prints from his Art Foundation. Mukherjee has often pointed out the need to grow within a vocabulary, to create a lasting signature. To that end, the prints bear some resemblance to his sketches for the British luxury home brand, Thomas Goode, or certain pieces from his collaboration with American home decor brand, Pottery Barn. This line features eagles, alligators and his logo, the Bengal Tiger, all native to the landscape of his home town, in muted tones of green, red and charcoal black. They are sold as individuals, and will make for a fun mismatched coffee table set.
Twitter and Instagram blew up with memes, but it hardly takes a genius to guess that despite the furore caused by his previous collaborations, it will be completely sold out. In a country where most fashion designers have only lent their names to home or beauty collections at best, Mukherjee’s Midas touch is the best way to prove that strong design etymology transcends mediums. (For example, he has designed uniforms for the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls School in Jaisalmer.)
Collab for a cause
“Collaborations make sense to either make money or impact,” Mukherjee had stated at the press conference. This one aims for both. Proceeds from the collection will be donated to the NGO, Educate Girls, as support towards the education of 3,000 girls. To acknowledge that, the coffee chain, for the first time, will change its call-out for the customers — it won’t be the buyer’s name, but a thank you from the girls helped by the sale of the goods.
Nostalgia and two cubes of sugar
Despite the nascent understanding of a collaboration in a young fashion industry like India, partnerships pave the way for a deeper brand recall and growth. In the case of a much-loved brand, it is also an entry point. (You may not want to spend lakhs on a lehenga, but a few thousands on a cup is acceptable.)
Sabyasachi, the man and the brand, is hard to limit to any one category, but the mission is incredibly clear — it is from India, for the world. And while this association with the international coffee chain may only be available in India for now, his other designs will grab global eyeballs when his New York store opens its doors this September.