The Sabyasachi X H&M Collaboration Effortlessly Marries Couture Elements Into Street Style Advertisement
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The Sabyasachi X H&M Collaboration Effortlessly Marries Couture Elements Into Street Style

"I wanted to reach out to an audience that is hungry for my products at least once in my lifetime. I am happy that I have been able to bridge the gap between aspiration and fulfilment."

By Ruman Baig  August 9th, 2021

After global collaborations with designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Simone Rocha, Balmain and Giambattista Valli, H&M decided to partner up with India’s leading couturier Sabyasachi for its latest venture. The much-awaited collaboration has been on everyone’s fashion lust list ever since its initial announcement, but because of the ongoing pandemic, the line was withheld for a long time.

With no further adieu, the textile-rich ready-to-wear line has officially hit stores globally and online. Seeking inspiration from travel, the ensembles have the high-street ease of H&M and the handicraft luxury synonymous with Sabyasachi, offering fashion connoisseurs the best of both worlds. In an exclusive conversation with ELLE, the designer and Maria Gemzell, Head of New Development at H&M, talk about juxtaposing design aesthetics and finding new creative grounds for a more culturally diverse audience.

Sabyasachi

Sabyasachi X H&M Wanderlust collection

ELLE: What made you pick travel as an inspiration for Sabyasachi X H&M’s first drop – Wanderlust?

Sabyasachi Mukherjee:  Travel has always been a big part of my inspiration. A lot of what I do at Sabyasachi comes from my mind’s eye. I go into different places all over the world and align different cultures together under one roof. The Wanderlust collection actually started with the idea of travel because right now the greatest luxury that one can indulge in is travel because it inspires you, it opens up the mind and it’s become all the more coveted post-pandemic because we have all realised that while the home is our sanctuary, we need to get out to see the world. It was very clear that I would do a travel-inspired collection which meant that it could be something that I pack for my own travel. I like to mix and match a lot of things so I can pack efficiently and can carry on for a longer period of time without having to look like I’m wearing a uniform. This collection has day wear, evening wear, a lot of resort clothing and there’s a lot of silhouettes and colours which can blend into each other and mix and match perfectly to create an endless wardrobe; but the beauty of it is that it is basics punctuated with a few luxury essentials so that whichever part of the world you are in, you’ll always look well dressed and you’ll always fit in. 

Sabyasachi

Sabyasachi X H&M Wanderlust collection

ELLE: H&M is known as a high-street contemporary brand and Sabyasachi is a popular traditional wear couturier, what was the idea behind merging these two contrasting labels?

Maria Gemzell: Our collaboration with Sabyasachi is the latest in the list of blockbuster partnerships since 2004. We look at renowned designers for our collaborations in order to bring habitually inaccessible, made-to-measure, rare and costly creations to the masses. Savvy shoppers from across the world are able to pick up designer creations at affordable prices every season from H&M. These limited-edition collaborative collections bring out the legendary style, expertise and creativity of a marquee designer within much closer reach of many. Today, H&M’s designer collaborations are eagerly awaited events and we are happy to have Sabyasachi join the ranks with names like Karl Lagerfeld, Moschino, Giambattista Valli, Madonna and many more.

Sabyasachi

Sabyasachi X H&M Wanderlust collection

ELLE: Both labels, H&M & Sabyasachi have trademark aesthetics, while designing the collection how did you strike the balance?

SM: We took the couture elements of Sabyasachi like handmade prints and embroidery and married them with easy global street silhouettes which H&M is so famous for. 

Sabyasachi

Sabyasachi X H&M Wanderlust collection

ELLE: The Indian audience is well versed with Sabyasachi’s body of work, but how do you think the global H&M clientele will receive it?

MG: The way in which this collection has taken shape, really is for the global nomad with a mindset that wants to explore textile and print traditions. In this particular collaboration, this has been brought to life by the Sabyasachi Art Foundation as well as the meticulously crafted, embroidered and multicultural silhouettes that will make heads turn anywhere in the world. 

Sabyasachi X H&M Wanderlust collection

ELLE: You’re known for incorporating Indian textiles and handicrafts in traditional clothing. How different was your design approach while infusing it in contemporary ready-to-wear silhouettes?

SM: I am an Indian designer and I am very proud of it. A very big part of my design sensibility is Indian textiles and handicrafts which form the basis of Indian clothing and design. These are the ingredients of a recipe, but not the recipe as itself. One can always use these ingredients to create your own recipe. So I incorporated all of this into contemporary, ready-to-wear silhouettes that would essentially have a global appeal but at the same time possess a regional and an Indian soul.

Sabyasachi X H&M Wanderlust collection

ELLE: Tell us about the creative process behind this collaboration?

MG: While the collection is quintessentially Sabyasachi; from prints and embroideries to craftsmanship, he was extremely generous making the process of collaboration a wonderful experience. From being invited into his creative process where we created this collection together to breaking bread together!. What a happy surprise to see his ability to remain so down to earth while working so hard and being so successful. We were also surprised at how fun the process was, as he was excited about making prêt-á-porter and we were excited about working with him.

Sabyasachi X H&M Wanderlust collection

ELLE: Slow and sustainable fashion is ingrained in your brand’s DNA, how did you manage to retain that while collaborating with a fast fashion brand?

SM: One of my favourite way of approaching sustainability is to be able to create clothing that lasts longer and which people can wear time and again. Because the lesser you consume, the more sustainable the planet is. When I was doing this collection with H&M, I was very clear that I would not do a topical fashion collection, but do something which has a classical theme about it. I just wanted to make beautiful clothes that would stay in people’s wardrobes for as long as they would choose to keep them. This is the right time to sensitise towards art and craft and towards slower and more mindful consumption. I for one always do clothes which are more timeless, that people can wear again and again, rather than doing mindless fast fashion that gets dated very quickly. The whole collection is very well made and a lot of it is done in cotton. Hopefully, these clothes will become wardrobe staples in a lot of peoples’ lives for years to come.

Sabyasachi X H&M Wanderlust collection

ELLE: Sabyasachi marks H&M’s first Indian collaboration, is this an attempt at showcasing Indian fashion at a global level?

MG: The Wanderlust collection takes cues from India’s rich textile, craft and history, and mixes modern and traditional silhouettes with a nod towards athleisure which is a global trend.  Additionally what really makes this particular collaboration unique is the personal signatures included in the collection, such as the unmissable Bengal Tiger. We are thrilled to take more of India to the world!

Sabyasachi X H&M Wanderlust collection

ELLE: Sabyasachi has always been a premium brand, but now with this collaboration, it will now be accessible to a larger audience, could you tell us a little more about that?  

SM: The H&M Collection thrives on one premise, that they make the premium brands available to a mass audience, even if it’s just for once. I am not very sure if I would do a prêt line but I wanted to reach out to an audience that is hungry for my products at least once in my lifetime. It might not be a business model that I am looking into at the moment, but I am at least happy that I have been able to bridge the gap between aspiration and fulfilment.

Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee

 

 Picture courtesy: Sabyasachi and H&M