Sabyasachi Mukherjee burst into the Indian fashion scene in 2002 with is debut collection at the Fashion Week in New Delhi. Known for his intricate Indian weaves and rich
embroidery, the designer who is credited
with giving the saree its due — more than
any other Indian designer — says he loves to
dwell on nostalgia for inspiration.
Your label was doing very well in New York.
Why did you decide to wind up and focus on
In 2008, India was going through this phase where everyone abroad was looking at coming back. What also happened at the downturn was that Americans had a lot of Prada
handbags and Gucci shoes, but mortgaged
houses. In India we didn’t have brands, but
had a house, which we could call our own,
money saved for our children’s education and
a little bit of gold.
I think this ‘backward thinking’ that people
laughed at about India, stood us in good
stead during bad times.
When I was supplying to the West, I realized I was making clothes for people whom I
did not have any connect with.
I didn’t know who was wearing my clothes,
whether I was making a difference in their
When I came back to India I tried to touch
lives through my market, through films.
There is a Bengali poet called Michael
What is your creative process? Do you con-
Madhusudan Dutta who always wanted to
write poetry in English till one day he went
abroad. He was mocked and told, ‘If you
don’t know how to write poetry in your mo-
ther tongue then you are a failed poet.’ He
came back and started learning Bengali and
later wrote some very beautiful Bengali vers-
es. That’s what happened with me.
ceive your collection for a fashion event well
Anybody who’s creative will tell you that
they can’t put a timeline or a deadline to creativity. Of course, there are things we do
under stress which sometimes brings out the
best in us and sometimes doesn’t because
you are still guided by commercial limitations and processes.
My mind is like this camcorder of memories, ideas and processes. At times, inspiration could hit inside the washroom or on a
flight. I don’t ever pencil down anything.
Every New Year for the last 20 years I have
been making a resolution that I will get an
organizer or a diary.
It never happens. These are just memories
and ideas that eventually come back.
They are triggered off by things, like a cer-
tain smell or a color I may have seen on a
I was at a Calvin Klein party in New York
and I saw this woman wearing a white linen
dress with a big, deep cutout back. A black
leather bra was visible.
My collection for the Lakmé Fashion Week
in Delhi, in August, was inspired by that
Do you have a muse in mind when you
Actually for me, the very process of cloth-
When we see your collection there is always
ing starts with ‘who is my customer or who
am I designing for?’
I always have this fictitious muse in my
head when I am designing. It could be a
woman I have seen.
a feeling that you are revisiting the past. Is it a
I am a memory person. I distil the most
beautiful memory of my life and use it. As a
child I had an idyllic life. I used to go to
school on a rowboat.
We had a Rabindra Sangeet teacher who
used to teach us music while we crossed the
river. Nostalgia is my chicken soup. It makes
me feel good. Nostalgia is also a great marketing tool. There is a reason why we need
nostalgia in our lives. We have such hurried
When you see a piece of clothing, an ideology or a piece of music that belongs to the
bygone era you covet it.
Today, if we had a very idyllic life I don’t
think nostalgia would sell. It sells because of
the maladies of the modern world.
Today, everybody thinks better means bigger and faster. In 2004, I did a collection
called The Snail. The idea was to slow down. I had written that slowing down does
not mean dropping out. In my scheme of
things it means choosing a better life.
That’s why we see a sense of repetition in
Exactly. Repetition creates icon-ism and
that’s why I like my clothes to be repeated a
little. I think identity, depth and stability in
a person comes from maturity.
When people are young they try different
hairstyles or makeup till they find a look
and then they keep it stable for the rest of
In my collection you will see evolvement
but there will also be repetition. What evolvement does is that it takes you to a higher
ground whereas repetition grounds you.
It’s very important to change but it’s
equally important to hold back.
How do you reconcile your beliefs with
the vain world of fashion?
Fashion is in many, many ways a superficial business. I almost find myself reluctant
to seduce fashion. Sometimes I do, but if I
had my way I wouldn’t.
People who pursue fashion have a singularly lonely life. When your handbag replaces your best friend you know that you
have a problem. One of the reasons why the
brand is successful is that I have never been
a fashion insider.
I have always lived on the fringes. When
I look at the front two rows of the fashion
shows, I realize that most people have dysfunctional relationships. They are trying to
create a facade by wearing super brands.
All you need to do is pat that person on
the shoulder and say, ‘I understand’ and that
person will break down. That’s why I am nice
My anthem is what Richard Gere said in
Pretty Woman, ‘Stores are never nice to people. They are only nice to credit cards.’
You faced a lot of criticism for Vidya Balan’s
wardrobe in Cannes. How did you handle
One of the reasons I got bashed was not because of Vidya or my designs, but because of
the combination of what we both represented.
Vidya is a woman who was always penalized and criticized for bad clothes and for
having a body weight problem. But they
don’t understand one thing — that her first
job is to act and not look good.
I was in London on a day when the Buckingham Palace is opened up and the royalty
meets the commoners. Every single Englishwoman was wearing a hat. Some critic said
that Vidya’s covered head at Cannes was an
image of subjugation.
I think it was about benevolence, respect
and a whole lot of other things. And also, in a
way, it was pride. I have never understood
how a short skirt can liberate you while covering your head can be subjugating.
There is this weird burn-your-bra, rebel
without a cause syndrome going on right
now. All these are issues created by women
In India, when it comes to fashion women
tend to box women more than men do. They
will say, ‘She is an aunty.’ I find that so sad. ;
TRENDING M2 THE MAGAZINE
why he refuses to
‘Nostalgia is my chicken
soup... Nostalgia is also a
great marketing tool.’
RAJESH KARKERA/ REDIFF.COM
OF LOST TIME
OF LOST TIME