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'I want to remodel old Bengali homes'

Kabeer Sharma catches up with Kolkata-based fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee.
None | By Kabeer Sharma (HT Cafe), Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 28, 2007 07:55 PM IST

Fashion is in the air...but Kolkata’s wunderkind of haute couture is missing from the scene. Either he’s sulking or he’s caught up in establishing his new factory. Be that as it may, the 33-year-old Sabyasachi Mukherjee, aka Pepsi, who has wowed la-di-dah circles in New York and London, takes a break for a sawaal jawaab session with Kabeer Sharma

Busy he is..with everyday couture rituals..then there’s the , Rani Mukherji-Konkona Sen-Jaya Bachchan movie being directed by Pradeep Sarkar.. it’s taking a while to complete and our Sabyasachi Mukherjee is doing the costumes.

Last night, he was out with his assistant who was majorly upset that her boss wouldn’t be around for her birthday He must attend a seminar titled GenNext for Global Fashion.

The assistant was assuaged though.. no, no, he didn’t rustle up a fabric, sari, salwaar or design for her, he gave her a treadmill..which all adds up to another day in Sabya’s life.

It is being realised that that whole fashion season thing is a con. Skirt hems are short one sea- son and long just six months later Surprisingly, not many people in India enlarge fashion into a family business>

Dude, you're not showing at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, they must be very disappointed.
They were a little disappointed, but I'm skipping this season because I want to be better prepared for the New York Fashion Week.
To be honest, the last time around I wasn’t.

And you know something? I’m still completing the orders I got from there and London.I'm a new designer on the international scene, I can't keep rejecting business, they would think I’m playing hard to get…

Go on, I’m all ears.
For example last season, Podium a store in Russia, placed an order for 300 haute couture pieces. Even 10 orders of this kind are difficult to deliver.. so imagine 300! Moreover, it's very important to take a season off, take a step back rather than go into a rut. I need to restructure my career, my life.

I'm going to be very careful about showing two absolutely different lines in India and abroad. Right now, my priority is to do shows in New York and London again . If I find budgets and sponsors, I’ll try to do Milan and Paris as well.

On the international forum, will you invest in stalls..or just show your designs there?
Fashion weeks are essentially done for the sure, stalls are important. But the prices are prohibitive. I mean I’d have to pay between Rs 60-70 lakh per city. Hello, but I don't have Rs 1.2 crore to blow up.

Since you're talking figures, how much did you make after the last season at New York?
I got about $525,000 worth of business after New York. But this time, I've been told by my agent that the orders just might double up – because a number of big stores want to see me for one more season before ordering. We're almost certain that we will be picked up by Bergdorf (Goodman) this time.

Worldwide, there has been this huge 'No forecast syndrome' on fashion. With labels getting bigger and bigger, pressurised buying is becoming a major issue too.. it is being realised that that whole fashion season thing is a con.

Skirt hems are short one season and long just six months later.

Why are you shifting your factory to the Kolkata outskirts.. is it because of the mounting pressure of orders.. or is it smoother and less expensive to work outside the city?
No, no nothing like that. It’s just that the state authorities are shifting factories to this belt outside the city limits.. because of the increasing pollution in Kolkata.

Plus, of course, I need to clearly define my domestic and international business facilities. Last season because of orders I had to pull people out of my domestic production team.. to complete orders for the international market. I can’t let the domestic market suffer.

That's why, with my father and my sister, I’m trying to get everything on track.

Sister? You're making fashion a mafiaesque business now


Ha ha ha… But seriously that is the best way to do it.. surprisingly not many people in India enlarge fashion into a family business. Payal, my younger sister completed her studies at NIFT this year.

She and dad will take care of the domestic business. I'll manage the export business and designing.

Does this new factory mean that you'll spend most of your time looking at the back of cabs because of the Kolkata traffic


Naah, it's just a 40-minute drive, plus I normally live in my factory, so it works for me.

Which car are your driving these days


Nothing fancy.. a black Toyota Corolla .

With blue neon lights in the front and the back


Naah, I still don't have my hair bleached and burnt with orange highlights..ha!

Like most designers, do you intend to extend into other businesses


I'm very proactively thinking about getting into jewellery and real estate. My dream is to pick up old Bengali homes and remodel them completely. They would be fabulous..while everyone’s building high rises, I’d be into embellishing our heritage.

Oh, will you knock down old baadis


No baba, I don't believe in breaking structures.. I wouldn’t go down that route. The other thing I'm very excited about is a coffee shopcum-library-cum-hangout spot. Nothing overbearing and la-didah, just something with the feel of a second-hand book shop where common people will feel welcome.

We'll organise screenings of movies which don’t come to India…it’ll be an alternative for those who don’t want to become mallrats.

Have you thought of a name? Will you call it Sabya's like Tendulkar's?
Ha ha, no, the concept is still in its early days. I haven't thought of a name yet!

Whatever happened to the bachelor pad you were planning to buy in New York? Will it be a penthouse with a swimming pool and all?
Are you mad? I can't afford a penthouse in Kolkata, forget New York! If I even think of such a thing I’d go bankrupt. Right now, I'd be more than happy with a shack in Central Park!

Me, mad?
Hello, you're the one whose agent is talking about a 300 per cent growth in business. Yeah but only for the international business.. which is still a very small percentage of the domestic business.

And I'm not the one showing off a Rs 3 lakh phone, am I?
Well, that’s another story. It’s an indulgence. I was at a café in Paris and a gentleman asked to see my phone and he looked at me and asked suspiciously, "Is this really yours?"

That was damn funny.. he thought I’d stolen it or something. So, see I don't look like someone who can own a Vertu phone.

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