Thursday, 12 July 2012

Sabya's workshop in Kolkata and a brief interview

Craftsmen working their magic up!
Last week I came across a Printed article in Marie Claire India June 2011 issue, which had a detailed interview with Sabyasachi Mukherjee and some great pictures of his studio and workshop in Topsia, Kolkata. There were 50 questions and answers in it, I am not going to write about all of them but will share some of the material and the photos in this post.

What memories of fashion do you have from when you were growing up?
Sabyasachi : I think my fashion moments were defined by Zeenat Aman wearing skimpy clothes and gyrating to ‘laila o laila’ and ‘aap jaisa koi’ in Kurbani.
Natural dyes which brings out the beautiful colours in Sabyasachi outfit!

So what was in your case the calling to be a fashion designer?
Sabyasachi : I never knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. I liked sketching. There was an interview of Rohit Khosla that I saw on TV. I climbed the wall with my friends and gate crashed Rohit Khosla fashion show in Saturday Club (Kolkata) in 1992. I saw his show and decided I wanted women to wear pretty clothes and walk up and down that stage.

Even the toilet has the Sabyasachi touch!
You have a very soft spoken, well mannered nature. In fact we hardly hear any controversial statements from you that other biggies are almost expected to make in the industry. How do you stay away from the controversies?
Sabyasachi : I think I am too boring for controversies to quote me. And also I never used PR for personal reasons. The press that the business gathered has been purely based on the product. And I am happy because the kind of person that I am, it would be really tiring if I constantly had to sell myself to sell my clothes.

Your clothes have wisdom about themselves. They are seldom what they appear to be. The fabrics have been progressed and been through many phases to have that history in them. Is that the definition of beauty?
The printing area!
Sabyasachi  : My design philosophy stands for personalized imperfection of the human hand. When I look at a woman who is too beautiful she is almost mechanized to me. So I like some flaws and freckles here and there to add to the beauty of the woman. Similarly, I like textiles and embroidery to have a little bit of character and age in them. I think men and women really start looking beautiful after 40. When you look into their eyes, you see the world through them. Certain amount of gentleness that comes through. The aggression of youth – the urgency of trying to do things is not there. You settle down and you actually get to see the person in full glory because he’s been addressing himself from within. And that kind of inner beauty for me is very appealing. That is why when I look at clothing, I see clothing that has been gone through a period, an age, a bygone era. I have always been very influenced by this poem which says ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.’ and that defines more than life for us. We are constantly running. Everything is perfect and digitized. We shy away from imperfection and we hardly get any time to reflect. My clothing wants you to do that – know what the past of India was, what the textile is, where it came from, how it was manufactured…. When the product is not interactive for you to ask questions from within, I think it is a failed product.
This is a unique room where all the old fabrics are kept - Inspiring!

Your clothes seem to appeal to the young girls as well as their mothers and grandmothers. What is it about your clothes that make for such a wide audience?
Sabyasachi  : It is a very simple thing: A sense of timelessness and non pretentious pure good Indian clothes. Also there is a very justified co-relation between price and product – which is the reason why the business is scaling so much. In short we try to cut the fat of fashion. Its fine to satisfy your frills and fancies, but you will come back to your daal-chawal and Sabyasachi at the end of the day.

Would you be happier if one day fashion is glamorous in itself and Bollywood is not required for publicizing it?
Even the threads used in Sabyasachi garments are dyed on premises!
Sabyasachi  : No, I think we should work with Bollywood and fashion together. No matter what fashion does in India, and I am talking from an idealistic point of view. India is a very emotional country led by sounds, sites and smells. Can you imagine what Bollywood would be if there was no running around the trees and dance and songs? Bollywood binds us like nobody else can and is much more powerful than politicians or even religion at times. When you already have an instrument to create so much of awareness in a country – I think designers should take view and learn to take benefit. When I did Raavan or Guzaarish, I did it with a single minded intention to promote Indian textiles. When people who would usually not venture out in chiffon or net saris look at Vidya in south cottons, they want to try that too. Because of that my weavers are getting tremendous amount of work.

Fashion like other industries, is looking at sustainability of resources and maintaining an ecological balance. You had started the Save a Sari initiative. Would you elaborate on its role in the market?
Sabyasachi  : I had gone with a friend of mine to one of the weavers in Andhra and I just realized that the entire family lived off the cotton sari that they made. The sari retailed for 1200/- and  even if the weaver made 50% of that, which meant a family of 5 people surviving for a whole week on only 600 rupees? The defining moment came when I was watching Spiderman and heard the dialogue ‘with great powers come great responsibilities’. So I decided to lend my name to the woven saris under ‘Save a Sari’ campaign. The method was quite simple. We produced the sari within the weaver’s cost without inflation. Added the 10% mark up for sales. So you got a sari from Sabyasachi at a cost less than what you would find at a cotton sari shop. Must have sold about 3000 saris in the last 6 months and that was a great benefit for the single weaver. Now we want to do this with 10 weavers from different clusters. This is part of my Corporate Social Responsibility now. The weavers get the entire cost of the sari without the middleman.

What would you like to be your greatest achievement as a fashion designer?
Sabyasachi  : The fact that I brought Indian textiles back to India. To connect Indian people with Indian textiles and to make them feel proud of their heritage is something I would like to achieve.

Credits : These pictures and interview has been sourced from another blog called lovestruckcow.


  1. Thanks for posting this - so cool..

  2. Wow so beautiful I would love to visit

  3. Love how he says "it would be really tiring if I constantly had to sell myself to sell my clothes."

    His work really speaks of his talent!

    I am a proud owner of a sari from his ‘Save a Sari’ campaign, and its a beautiful pc. of art

  4. Sonali, New York14 July 2012 at 12:13

    I want to be there.... bought my first Sabyasachi saree online yesterday, your articles about Sabyasachi played a part in it. Feel a little light in my purse but guess it was worth it.

  5. Love this!

  6. A true designer in every sense. I had seen your merchandise in London , it made me so proud to see an Indian designer who is not aping the west , but creating a whole new perspective towards Indian art and embroidery .

  7. Sabyasachi is a quintessential curator of Inidan Ethnic wear, especially Saree! It's because of him that the young generation will continue to have saree in their wardrobes! Thanks to the tv shows like "Band Baaja Bride" that we got to see him in a very personal way and got to know him better!

  8. how can I find a link to BUY a save a sari please ? I'm in USA and can't even get to his online shop....can anyone help me?
    Sari's are GORGEOUS!
    thank you for your reply!
    Catte Adams