There’s no one like Sabya. That’s Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the talented, down-to-earth and soft-spoken Indian fashion designer behind the label named – not surprisingly – Sabyasachi, which operates a number of beautiful stores across India and has 1.6 million (and growing) followers on Instagram.
I meet Mukherjee on his recent visit to Hong Kong, where he’s showcasing his global ready-to-wear capsule collection and couture line at Lane Crawford ifc, and I’m the first to admit that every single item – including a floral embellished tulle sleeveless top and an embellished velvet cropped bomber jacket – is on my wish list. Overall, the day-to-night pieces from the capsule collection stay true to the designer’s aesthetic: classic Indian wear with a sophisticated, elegant and chic twist. So, how did India’s most in-demand creative join forces with a Hong Kong retail giant?
“I wanted to start an international line,” Mukherjee says, “and at the same time Baldeep [Riyat, Lane Crawford’s womenswear buyer] happened to be in India for fashion week. I wasn’t showing at fashion week and by accident she came into my store in New Delhi and she fell in love with it and the aesthetic.
“So she wrote to me and said, ‘You know, I think Hong Kong would really like what you can do. Would you be interested in doing a ready-to-wear line for Lane Crawford?’ I said, ‘Listen, I don’t do ready-to-wear, I’m a couture brand but I’m willing to do ready-to-wear, but only with all the same principles of couture because we do everything by hand.’ So I gave her some doodles and sketches of what I could do and she loved it. That’s how the collection really started.”
“One of my favourite filmmakers is from Hong Kong – Wong Kar-wai. I think his cinema and the China Club inspired me to do something romantic, brooding and precious. I’m a maximalist. I cannot take a middle path. I like my clothes very simple or very ornate. When I was talking to the Lane Crawford staff, I said, ‘Encourage your people to not see it as Indian but see it as global.’” He gestures to my outfit. “Exactly like what you’re wearing. You’re wearing something very Indian with a pair of jeans. That’s my sensibility of fashion.”
On display in an adjoining room are the magnificent shoe and handbag styles that resulted from a collaboration between Sabyasachi and Christian Louboutin. This limited-edition capsule collection for men and women was unveiled here the night before, with each piece featuring original sari fabrics from Sabyasachi’s archives.
The partnership with the Parisian footwear maestro is Mukherjee’s latest collaboration to date, the Indian-born designer having also created a stunning jewellery line called Zanyah for diamond brand Forevermark, and more than 50 exotic home-furnishing pieces (including textiles, decor and ornaments) for the Williams Sonoma-owned brand Pottery Barn. In view of the recent partnerships and the fact that his brand dresses some 2,000 brides each year, it’s crystal clear to all that Sabyasachi has skyrocketed to global stardom – but he tells me there’s much more to it.
“As a brand, we’re very proud of who we are. We’re definitely the best in the things that we do and I think we’re a very honest brand: we don’t bullshit. I think what people get attracted to is honesty. People like kind people. I want the brand to be kind.
“Many years ago, Richard Gere told Julia Roberts in the movie Pretty Woman that stores are never nice to people, they’re only nice to credit cards. I said that I hope I don’t do that with my store, or my brand for that matter. Today, you need to give them a story that they believe in. The best way to let the world notice you is to be yourself.
“It’s quite like the Cinderella story,” he explains. “There will always be a Prince Charming who’s looking for you because he wants you. He doesn’t want the trappings of somebody else. There will always be an influential buyer or an important person who’s watching your business, or a writer or someone who is wanting you to shine because of who you are. We never forget that.”