Life & Style | People

Sabyasachi Mukherjee on some of his favourite heroines

Creating sheer poetry with a six-metre-long piece of fabric called a sari, Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee tells Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary what it’s like to clothe the stars

  • By Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary, Sr. Features Writer, Friday
  • Published: 16:37 January 31, 2013
  • Friday

Sabyasachi Mukherjee
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Sabyasachi Mukherjee: Reinventing a classic.

Aishwarya Rai, Vidya Balan, Anushka Sharma, Rani Mukherjee... these are just some of the top Bollywood stars who have Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s number on speed dial. Whether it’s for films or for mega events, this is the man Bollywood stars and socialites turn to when it comes to creating stunning designs for them.

But Bollywood stars aren’t the only ones who have stepped out in the 38-year-old Indian designer’s styles. Oprah Winfrey and Naomi Campbell, too, have worn saris designed by Sabyasachi, instantly becoming the toast of the fashion world.

Arguably the most celebrated fashion designer on the Bollywood circuit and on the international fashion scene, Sabyasachi enjoys experimenting with fabrics and styles including the timeless sari, giving it a contemporary twist.

For instance, inspired by tribal women’s clothing, he designed the chhotu sari (meaning small, in Hindi). Unlike traditional saris, which touch the ground, the chhotu sari falls about 15 centimetres short of the floor, making it more comfortable to wear and easier to walk in.

Proof that his designs are not just for the catwalk, last year his label Sabyasachi accumulated sales of over $11 million (Dh40 million). Sabyasachi created some amazing costumes for Rani Mukherjee in the Bollywood film Black, which was directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The designs earned him critical acclaim along with the National Award for the best costume designer for a feature film in 2005.

He was also the only Indian designer to be invited to showcase his collection at Milan Fashion Week 2004 and was voted by a Singapore-based business magazine as one of the ten most influential Indians in Asia. After wowing UAE fashionistas with his collection of bohemian saris and couture last year, Sabyasachi is in Dubai with his latest collection, Full Moon (see info box), which will also be available at Rivaage in Sunset Mall.

Sabyasachi has travelled far and wide to add the perfect details to his clothes. His designs feature intricate needlework from Russia; boutis, a type of quilting popular in Provence in the South of France; zardozi, a type of embroidery from Agra, India; kantha, another type of embroidery from Bangladesh and block printing from Rajasthan.

Sabyasachi says a sari is, “a six-metre piece of fabric that can be draped in any manner that you please. It can either hide folds or accentuate curves. In short, it can highlight a woman’s body. That is why it is such a beautiful feminine garment. “The sari can make many kinds of statements: from sensuous to conservative, to regal to dramatic, but what the sari invariably does is give the wearer a strong sense of identity.’’

Although a purist at heart, he says he likes modifying the traditional saris in small ways “to keep the people interested”. Friday asks him to give us his take on some of the stars he’s designed for over the years.

Oprah Winfrey
The talk show host, media magnate and editor of O magazine wore a Sabyasachi sari at the grand dinner to mark the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2012 (below), which went on to become the talk of the town.

Oprah’s loves: “Classic and formal dresses. Oprah loves apple green and bright orange. She appreciates handicrafts and finesse in workmanship. What also excites Oprah is the cultural history of her choice of clothing.”

The Sabyasachi moment: “Oprah in a sari at the Jaipur Literary Festival created a stir among the audience. I remember an onlooker remarking: ‘Oh! She’s in a Sabyasachi outfit’. What can be a bigger compliment that somebody recognising my work instantly?”

An accessory that would highlight her style: “Mangtika” (a bejewelled ornamental forehead piece).

Style tip: “Oprah is a supremely confident lady and has the ability to make anything work to her advantage. I’d love to see her in a floral print that would act as a foil to such a strong personality.”

Aishwarya Rai
The former Miss World and a stunning Bollywood star who was voted the most beautiful woman in the world, made waves whenever she sported Sabyasachi’s creations, particularly in movies such as Devdas and Guzaarish.

Aishwarya loves: “Embroidery, dramatic clothing and has a penchant for colours that complement her blue-grey eyes. She loves blues, greens and deep reds.”

The Sabyasachi moment: “When I dressed her in a sari for her interview with Oprah Winfrey in September 2009 and for the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 (right photo), the whole country sat up and noticed her attire.”

An accessory that would highlight her style: “Less is more. The simpler she keeps her look, the better the impact. I would prefer her in simple plain clothing.”

Style tip: “She should not wear anything that detracts from her stunning beauty. I would like to dress her in dramatic yet simple clothes in one solid colour in a matt fabric, pulled-back hair and kohl-rimmed eyes.”

Anushka Sharma
The actor has taken the silver screen by storm in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Band Baaja Barat, Jab Tak Hai Jaan and, most recently, Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola. When she opts for traditional clothes, she does so with Sabyasachi, like she did at the International Indian Film Academy Awards in Toronto in 2011 (right).

Anushka loves: “Youthful clothes with a bohemian vibe. She loves experimenting and does not stick to any particular genre.”

The Sabyasachi moment: “When she modelled for my Chand Bibi collection during the Lakme Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2008, people remarked that she looked like a girl who had emerged from the era of the Raj.”

An accessory that would highlight her style: “Flowers in her hair. This would highlight her old-world, classic look.”

Style tip: “Being super skinny, she can wear outfits with a lot of volume and drama, and has the right body shape for layered clothes.”

Vidya Balan
The toast of all Bollywood award functions, Vidya Balan has been an icon for traditional Indian women appearing in a sari on all important occasions ranging from award functions and film galas, to her grand wedding in December last year. Being an avowed Sabyasachi fan, most of the saris in her bridal trousseau were created by the designer.

Vidya loves: “Earthy colours, traditional and solid saris with strong dramatic borders.”

The Sabyasachi effect: “Vidya’s dressing style has inspired the entire middle class in India to follow her cue and start wearing Indian-woven saris.”

An accessory that would highlight her style: “Jewellery, especially ethnic gold jewellery.”

Style tip: “She should stick to cotton saris. This attire brings out her most amazing persona.”

Rani Mukherjee
The sultry siren who has ruled the silver screen for more than a decade has been a Sabyasachi fan for quite some time and always looks graceful in his creations when she chooses to wear a sari to public events. Here, right, she is at the V Shantaram Awards in 2009.

Rani loves: “Sophisticated colour palettes, clothes that border on the classic. She thrives on clothing with sensual undertones but never ever crosses the line to appear vulgar.”

The Sabyasachi moment: “I remember a spectator at a show saying, ‘Rani and you have achieved the greatest collaboration.’”

An accessory that would highlight her style: “The bindi [vermilion mark] on the forehead.”

Style tip: “She should wear more earthy tones. She is such a natural beauty with a strong personality; the more natural her clothes, the more attractive she will look.”

Sridevi
The beautiful awardwinning Bollywood actress Sridevi made her comeback recently with the widely acclaimed film, English Vinglish where she was seen at her graceful best draped in Sabyasachi creations.

Sridevi’s favourites: “She likes strong, classical clothing accompanied by refined jewellery.”

The Sabyasachi moment: “When I dressed her for the Toronto International Film Festival last year (right), she looked like she belonged to royalty in India.”

An accessory that would highlight her style: “She carries saris beautifully and she wouldn’t need too many accessories as they might take away from her look.”

Style tip: “She should wear more woven saris, as she carries them well. She has the grace and posture of a dancer and would look beautiful in solid chiffons and refined jewellery.”

Fact file

Sabyasachi’s Full Moon collection, a range of saris, prêt-a-porter wear, lehengas and bridal wear, is on display at a trunk show at the Raffles Hotel, Wafi City, courtesy of Rivaage. The exhibition is on today (February 1) from 2pm to 8pm. The collection will be available at Rivaage for a few days at its Sunset Mall outlet.

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