“At 22, I knew nothing beats hard work & discipline,” says Suneet Varma

The fashion designer talks about starting his career, being confused and in the closet and being inspired by Botticelli’s painting, The Birth of Venus, for his first collection
Suneet Varma at 22 (above) and at 54 (inset)
Suneet Varma at 22 (above) and at 54 (inset)
Published on Aug 01, 2021 08:50 AM IST
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What was your career like?

I was at the beginning of my career. I had just returned from Europe with a masters in design and costume history.

Suneet Varma’s first portrait shot at his parents’ house in Greater Kailash by Prabudha Das Gupta
Suneet Varma’s first portrait shot at his parents’ house in Greater Kailash by Prabudha Das Gupta

What was your bank balance like?

A big, fat zero.

Any romance in the air?

I was confused and in the closet ! It was a difficult time as I had dated girls but deep down I knew I was gay.

Suneet dancing on his birthday with with India’s pioneer designer Rohit Khosla
Suneet dancing on his birthday with with India’s pioneer designer Rohit Khosla

What was your focus in life?

Work, work, work. My focus has not changed since.

Suneet Varma with his friend and fellow designer Ravi Bajaj in 1996
Suneet Varma with his friend and fellow designer Ravi Bajaj in 1996

And your frame of mind?

I was despondent, broke but always joyful and quick to laugh.

Was your family supportive?

My family has always been my greatest source of strength. They have always celebrated me and my choices, whether professional or personal.

Suneet in London with Matthew Williamson at the shoot of Style Guru, a TV show he hosted in the ‘90s
Suneet in London with Matthew Williamson at the shoot of Style Guru, a TV show he hosted in the ‘90s

What was your fashion sense like?

I was quite forward thinking and yet influenced by European art history. I had the gold breast plate with nipples as a sari blouse inspired by Botticelli’s painting, The Birth of Venus, for my first collection.

Suneet’s first collection for Ensemble Mumbai with Feroze Gujral
Suneet’s first collection for Ensemble Mumbai with Feroze Gujral

What was your fitness quotient like?

I had been working out since my school days. And haven’t stopped yet.

Your most prized possession at the time:

It was my beautiful Nani. She would tell me stories of her youth and beauty, which inspired me to dream.

Suneet shot in 1989 by Prabudha Das Gupta at his first studio at HKV
Suneet shot in 1989 by Prabudha Das Gupta at his first studio at HKV

What was your biggest dream then?

To do great work. I continue to chase excellence. I was my biggest critic and competition. I need to forever improve and learn.

Enjoying his birthday with his design assistant Geetika Gupta, who now lives in the US
Enjoying his birthday with his design assistant Geetika Gupta, who now lives in the US

If you had a chance to change one thing about yourself at that time, what would it be and why?

Probably nothing. I’ve loved my journey so far and learnt from all the triumphs and turbulence as well.

The biggest life lesson that you may have learnt at that time?

Nothing beats hard work and discipline!

From HT Brunch, August 1, 2021

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Friday, October 29, 2021