Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee© Sabyasachi Mukherjee

Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee On Taking Over The World

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Anshu Khanna

The Jamaican national motto celebrates its multi racial music by saying, “Out of many, one.”

Strangely, the same motto fits the Indian couture industry that’s brilliantly represented by the one national icon of design and aesthetic refinement: Sabyasachi Mukherjee. His omnipresence and sheer richness of design leaving competition — if any — miles behind, the beauty being that this winner takes it all purely on the merit of his creative cadence, originality of design and depth of knowledge. Kolkata’s golden boy, Sabyasachi carries a bit of the city with him wherever he goes, its layered culture peeping through his design in more ways than one. Be it in the colonial influence of his colour palette, reminiscent of the life lived in Tolly Club. Or the way he has immortalised the colour red that somehow always feels like a shade of alta (red henna) that Bengali women wear on their feet. Or the Bengal tiger that emerges with much aplomb across his belts, bags and jewels.

There are many firsts to his credit: the ushering in of floral prints into the otherwise over-embellished lehenga story; the scrunched belt look over a billowy lehenga; the slender faced woman with spectacles on his ramp; the interplay of layered and embroidered borders on an otherwise rich, raw silk canvas; the dandy man who is bold on his colours and banna (a rooted reference to a Rajput man) in his panache.

The couturier sets trends even when all he wishes to pursue is timeless tales enriched by eternal heritage. That every iconic bride wishes to ‘wear a Sabya’ is a given. The magic is in the way he makes their inner personality resonate with his design. The white and gold look in a saree crafted for the young and bubbly Alia Bhatt, the mature wine palette he complimented Katrina Kaif ’s beauty with, the bold bride he sculpted out of Priyanka Chopra… Every Sabyasachi bride blends his very recognisable fashion fable with her strong, innate personality.

Sabyasachi is like a sponge that absorbs cultures and also blends in seamlessly into them. He made all those fence sitters, who felt Indian design is too intense for the prevailing simplicity of global fashion, eat grass when his charm bracelet-inspired jewellery graced the windows of Bergdorf Goodman in New York, when the Christian Louboutin red was laced with Sabya textures, or when his sling with the Bengal tiger rubbed shoulders with Hermès and Dior bags. As he opens his Pandora’s box to the style-seekers of East Village, New York, it’s indeed time to see Indian fashion find its pedestal in the global world of refinement. HELLO! speaks with the man of the moment himself.

HELLO!: You have singularly taken Indian couture to global bastions. You are the name synonymous with Indian luxe. How has the journey been?

Sabyasachi: “I’ve always believed that to build a luxury house, you need to be patient and have a singularity of vision. I’ve been sowing the seeds for two decades, and now, the time has come for us to share our vision globally. It’s been an extraordinary journey so far, and I’m very humbled by the overwhelming response and support we received in New York.”

H!: Congratulations on the all-new store in New York. What was your vision for this address?

S: “I’ve often said I see myself as a ferryman between the past and the future. India is such a reservoir of history, art and culture — and I believe that for culture to be relevant, it needs to be dynamic. My job is to make it dynamic for today’s consumer. As a designer, I have the privilege to conserve, edit and tweak what I have known into a living legacy. I think when you truly know who you are, the aesthetic just follows. And the sensibility behind all my stores, including New York, comes from the spirit of Calcutta that’s so beautifully embodied in the old homes and palaces of the city. It’s where art, culture, craft, heritage and history come together seamlessly, but with a distinct point of view. It’s layered together in this almost heady mix. Where legacy meets a certain intellectual sense of modernity in how hybrid it is and yet, each is distinct and unique. There’s a certain site specificity to it. Each space and location renders a certain je ne sais quoi that is it’s own. The New York store became almost a metaphor for the journey from Calcutta to New York.”

H!: At Bergdorf Goodman, you rub shoulders with the best in global design. How do you make your place in this glittering world?

S: “If you know who you are and are rooted in a real sense of self and authenticity, you will always be at home in the world.”

H!: Sabyasachi is such a heritage-driven brand. How do you create the bridge between this and global fashion trends?

S: “I’ve never chased trends. I’m almost anti-trend. I believe that when you make something truly beautiful, people will find you. So I’ve never been in conflict with domestic or global fashion trends for that matter.

H!: You have immortalised the bride in a red lehenga look. What is the source of inspiration for that?

S: “It’s rooted in heritage, culture and tradition — and the sheer power and resilience of the colour red. However, India has many stories; it’s never just one. Not all Indian brides are rooted in red — ivories, pastels and the gamut of rich Indian colours are all part of the oeuvre of our heritage bridal collections.”

H!: From the Bengal tiger to the ‘florals meet Indian lace’, the layered lehengas to the boisterous colour palettes for men, Sabyasachi is a signature conjurer. How do you evolve, develop and render popular the many fashion trends that emerge in your genius mind?

S: “I don’t approach clothing as fashion or trend. This is part of our shared living heritage and culture. What does make it designer, so to speak, is a perspective that I can bring to this incredible legacy. I see myself more as a conservationist and as someone who can offer a specific authentic point of view.”

H!: How inspired is your design by princely India?

S: “I think my design is inspired by everything that’s part of our history and culture. The royals of India were great patrons of art, craft and culture, and they epitomised the idea of slow luxury. This commitment to creating and fostering heritage inspires me.”

H!: What’s brewing in the Sabya design stables? 

S: “I’m committed to creating a complete ecosystem of luxury rooted in Indian heritage, craft and authenticity. So I have my eye on everything from home and beauty to hospitality.”

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in HELLO! India’s December 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!