‘My soul has always been in ready-to-wear. I’m a white-shirt-and-khaki guy. I designed what I would wear myself,” enthuses Sabyasachi Mukherjee at the press preview of the Sabyasachi x H&M collaboration in New Delhi on January 24 this year. “People think I’m a maximalist, but I am a gypsy at heart and a minimalist.” It is not very often that you see a brand surpass its moniker. It’s what Ralph Lauren did for America and it’s what Sabyasachi Mukherjee has done for India. From dressing Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma and Priyanka Chopra for their break-the-Internet weddings and collaborating with Pottery Barn and Christian Louboutin in the past to launching his jewellery label at the NYC-based luxury store Bergdorf Goodman, there’s no contemporary designer as enterprising as Mukherjee. And, his soon-to-be-released collaboration with high-street brand H&M is a testament to it. The collection is expected to be out at select H&M stores in India and around the world along with HM.com and Myntra from April 16.
Simply put, the much-awaited launch will let Sabyasachi followers own some of his signature design elements—chintz, baroque embroideries and (yes!) the much-loved sari—at high-street price points. But, there are also going to be many firsts. You’ll see Mukherjee make jeans for the first time. “The denims are going to be relaxed, well-washed and have a low-crotch. It is very artisanal because it is hand-crushed— almost like you make baandhni or a crinkled skirt. I love denims that can double up as sloppy pajamas and they’re perfect for travelling. I am done with men and women wearing jeggings,” he laughs.
Themed around ‘Wanderlust’, the collection is an ode to the global nomad. “If you ask a person to choose between a handbag and a five-day trip, everybody wants to travel. The world (of luxury) has changed into experiences. So the clothes bring out the essence of whimsical journeys. And, glamping. You will also see block-prints, hobo bags, scarves, sunglasses, and lots of trinkets inspired by my trips to Marrakech, Florence, and Rajasthan. And, so are the visors, fanny packs, the flip-flops and headscarves,” he explains.
A similar eclecticism can also be found in his menswear, which includes kurtas, utilitarian vests, and printed jackets. Furthermore, many of the silhouettes can be worn by both men and women. “I’ve always been fascinated by women who borrow from men’s wardrobe and men who have feminine nuances in their clothing. Most of the clothes can be worn by anyone, depending on what you like. I have sized it neutrally. And, a lot of the women’s jewellery is on men, men’s clothing is on women; the bags, sneakers, the visor, scarves, and the belts are neutral,” reveals Mukherjee.
The 46-year-old designer eventually sees a future where his brand stands for a way of living. He wants to introduce a beauty line and extend the Sabyasachi universe to wellness and hospitality. “For the longest time, I wanted to take the India story global. It is very difficult for us to do it through couture but, you can do it on the back of a giant like H&M, that has the background to understand the next big voices from fashion, whether it was Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld or Alber Elbaz. And, let me put this on record: I didn’t go to H&M, they came to me. I never thought this would happen but I knew that one day a collaborator would come to India and I would take India’s story forward. It just took me 20 years to make it happen.” Here’s hoping it’s only the beginning of his globe-spanning business empire.