Why is designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee thanking PM Narendra Modi? | fashion and trends | Hindustan Times
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Why is designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee thanking PM Narendra Modi?

Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee says “Bollywood needs fashion as much as fashion needs Bollywood”. We should thank PM Narendra Modi for generating interest in Indian textiles, he adds.

fashion and trends Updated: Aug 25, 2016 08:41 IST
Ruchika Kher
Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee says  brand-building is a painful exercise.
Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee says brand-building is a painful exercise.

When we met Sabyasachi Mukherjee at a five-star hotel in the city, we were expecting to see a hyperactive personality with an I’m-short-on-time vibe. After all, the 42-year-old is presenting the grand finale of this season’s Lakmé Fashion Week, to be staged in a few days. But the designer was at ease.

“It is so difficult to catch hold of you,” we said, to which, he simply smiled and said, “I like to talk when I have something to say.” Here, he talks about completing 17 years in the industry, Indian textiles, and more.

Your shows always have a strong Bollywood presence…
I invite them because they form my circle of friends and my clientele. Not calling them just because they belong to Bollywood is a bad strategy. It is good to leverage each other’s strengths. Bollywood needs fashion as much as fashion needs Bollywood.

Read: Sabyasachi Mukherjee looks back on a life in style

Your collections showcase Indian crafts at their best. Do you think now is a good time for indigenous crafts with a renewed focus on all things Indian?
We have Mr Narendra Modi to thank for that. He is a visionary who wants to push the thought of India. The problem with Indians is that we have forgotten to celebrate ourselves. We wait for the west’s validation. Also, the way people consume fashion nowadays has changed. People are fed up of what we call the China story (products from China dominating the market) because when there is too much of something, then it becomes a problem.

Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee says Fridays should be declared as Indian dressing in corporates. (Getty Images)

You popularised Indian looks at a time when most Indian designers were promoting western silhouettes. Did you consider it a risky move back then?
Brand-building is a painful exercise. There will be times when people won’t believe in you, or they’ll criticise you. But you have to march on. I see a lot of designers, who were not known for traditional designs, adopting the same now. This becomes an opportunist case. But customers know who does what.

Sabyasachi’s shows always have a heavy dose of Bollywood presence. (Getty Images)

Do you think campaigns such as #iwearhandloom help in promoting Indian textiles?

Today, millennials want to consume knowing that their consumption is going to affect some part of the world socio-economically. When you start wearing handloom materials, you are giving many a means of sustenance. I think a lot of the millennials are going to inspire the youth to start wearing fabrics made using Indian handlooms.

How can the use of Indian textiles be promoted in a big way?

If every corporate in the country was to declare Friday dressing as Indian dressing, things would change. Thousands of people will wear Indian clothes at least on that one day, and maybe even try handloom materials. Seeing that will definitely give people a sense of pride. Plus, that will help the country economically at the grass-roots level. The weavers, who are out of jobs today because most of us are wearing polyester from China, will earn a livelihood if we decide to put even a little bit of Indianness back into our wardrobes.

The designer calls Maharani Gayatri Devi is eternal muse. (Getty Images)

How important is social media to you, considering your recent couture show was an Instagram-only show?

I’m 42, and all my assistants are below the age of 25. I keep observing their behavioural patterns, and I’ve realised how important a smartphone is to them. Sometime ago, at a hotel, I saw a woman, wearing a unremarkable salwar kameez in an elevator. She was browsing through [some designer accounts] on Instagram. And I was like, wow. She might not be a consumer [of designer wear], but she is on Instagram. So, the people who are the real consumers are definitely on this platform. That made me realise the importance of this medium.

A couture show is not meant to be a democratic release. But I said let’s flip the concept. Let’s do it in a way so that it goes to every single household. Gone are the days when you could build luxury with the concept of distance. Today, luxury has to be a little more inclusive.

Sabyasachi’s recent couture collection was an Instagram-only show.

Who is your eternal muse?

Amrita Sher-Gil (painter), Frida Kahlo (painter) and Maharani Gayatri Devi — they were all strong women with independent views. What was common between the three was that they all lived in different places and eras, but they were all secure women. It is just incidental that they were also beautiful.

In your 17-year-long career, what have been your most important learnings?

Create something that is your own. Accept criticism and internalise it; don’t bow down to it. Lead the market; don’t let the market lead you.

Read: Why Indian fashion designers are obsessed with weddings

Tell us about the grand finale.

Working with Lakmé Fashion Week is amazing because they made me who I am. They gave me my first break. Plus, when you are doing a grand finale, so many things that you, otherwise, would have to do yourself [for an independent show] are taken care of by someone else. They think of your production and they create an infrastructure for your show. I am trying to make my shows bigger and bigger every year. So, when someone else tries to take the pressure off me, it is always welcome.