When I reached his home in a Girgaum by-lane, he's playing a game of patience.. with a pack of cards. "I'm entertaining myself ?" the 51-year-old James Ferreira shrugs offering me a cane-andwood chair in a room with 20 windows, no less.
Despite the honks of cars and the clamour outside, I don't really have to raise my voice to ask:
Why did you take a sabbatical?
Because I couldn't cope with the professionalism of the fashion industry. I'm a designer.. an artist. I have no clue on how to run a business. As the scenario became more professional around me, I suffered from a Down syndrome.
But you knew you would return to fashion?
Hmm, I did sometimes. I wanted to collect my thoughts and check if I wanted to be a part of the industry or not. Whenever my mind was blank, I would imagine clothes.. that's why I came back.
Why haven't you been financially successful?
Simple. Because I haven't chased money. I'm not interested in knowing if my garments are making or breaking even.
I know designers are dropping their love for fashion because let's accept it, you need to be a smart businessman to survive.
Do you find it fruitful to teach fashion?
Fruitful! What a word. Fruitful no, fulfilling yes. I love children, they are innocent, they don't say things which are politically correct.
So what's your take on the quality of teaching at fashion schools?
See, we have to make fashion education India-centric. They can't get carried away with western fashion. Let them have a western perspective, but their base about India needs to be strengthened.
You did fashion for films at a point of time.. why did you give up?
Oh, please don't embarrass me. Films were different then. I did costumes for actresses like Smita Patel, Tina Munim, Shabana Azmi.. they had style then. I even did Amitabh Bachchan's hand thingy in Shehanshah. I gave films up because my friends and family would go chhee-chee and make fun of me. I would get so, so embarrassed.
Who has style in films today? No one is stylish. How can all the money-making factories have any style at all? It's about attitude. Only one man has it - Rajnikant. He does one film and charges Rs 17 crore for it instead of doing ten films at discount rates.
Would you rate any socialite as stylish?
Oh my god.. they are garish and vulgar. They can only pay to be on page 3.. style is too big a word for them to understand.
They are over made-up, they wear itsy clothes and don't even look comfortable in them. They wear too much of jewellery.. someone needs to tell them that less is more.
What are your views on the India fashion industry by large?
I don't want to sound too pessimistic. Queen Rania of Jordon on her last visit to India was asked to comment on Indian fashion. She said she salutes the craftsmen and embroiderers. That's exactly what our situation is.. till now we have all been depending on our karigars. You remove the embroidery from a garment and it will be shapeless. We have to learn to cut.
Hmm.. do you like any of your competitors?
Everyone has a long way to go, including me. Sometimes I don't like my own garments.. every designer in India needs to delve deep enough into his or her own past to be able to come out with alternatives.
The only trends here are the trends that are set internationally and we all follow them. So, who's the best on the global scene? Oh, it has to be Karl Lagerfeld.. there can be no one like him. I wanted to become like him. I love him for the sheer force of his work and the amount he can produce as a single person. He heads a fashion house like Chanel and has no assistants.
Do you think anyone in India even remotely matches up to Karl Lagerfeld?
Are you mad or what? None of us can match up to him. We have a lot to learn from him. You must like some newcomers?
Yes, some of them are honest and original. Of them, Kolkata's Anamika Khanna is the best.. she's brilliant. So are Anshu Arora and Jason Cherian from Bangalore.
And the ones you dislike?
Aah, I hate all Bollywood designers. All their so-called designs look like what's available in the shops Roopam and Sheetal. They package themselves so well.. but there is no substance beneath the packaging.
Is couture an abused genre in India?
Of course it is. In our country , prêt is made in the name of couture and couture in the name of prêt.
(Ha ha) Sometimes designers use the term diffusion when they don't have a clue what that is. A prêt sari costs Rs 30,000. Give me a break. Shahab Durazi is the only guy who's shown India what couture actually is.
And where are our Fashion Weeks heading?
I've done enough mud slinging all my life.. it's about time I become a bit diplomatic. There is nothing out there on the ramps.. it's just a ritual that they have to follow.
Anyone who follows international trends will know that the designs are copied. Fashion in India celebrates mediocrity.. there's no taste and morality left.
Please go on..
Have any of these FDCI and IMG councils ever bothered to take into account the size of a normal human being in our country? I also don't agree with this Delhi and Mumbai business.
We should have preliminary Fashion Weeks in small cities.. eliminate the not-so-good designers and do only one big Fashion Week with the best designers.
Have you ever contemplated permanent retirement?
I've just started, how can I think of retirement? See, I've made a lot of mistakes but then who doesn't?
Can I write everything I've recorded?
(Laughs) I will slap you, girl.