For some, Sabyasachi is not yet a household name. For 4.7 million Instagram followers, however, he’s an international sensation. The Indian fashion designer is known for his rich textiles, bridalwear, high-end jewelry, and a distinct aesthetic that beautifully weaves traditional silhouettes and techniques with a modern sensibility. Now, the Kolkata-born talent is bringing his vision to the masses with an already hotly anticipated collaboration with H&M.
“If I’m able to create a bridge between my world and the international audience by staying true to who I am and keeping my authenticity alive, this collection becomes symbolic of a more inclusive fashion industry, where designers from India and countries like ours move into the global fray,” he exclusively told ELLE.com via email. “This collection and collaboration was an introspective time for me, of asking myself, ‘What can I as an Indian designer bring to a collaboration with a high street juggernaut?’ It has to go beyond representation—it has to become a collection that brings together the authentic best of both of our worlds.”
The joyful collaboration is a marriage of all these things. Featuring womenswear, accessories, and menswear, it folds in traditional Indian cues like tex
tiles made with vintage block prints, embellished loungewear in the form of glamorous, patchwork kaftans, and brass-colored jewelry mimicking heirlooms. While Sabyasachi’s in-house collections venture into couture prices, this collaboration with H&M is more accessible.
We spoke to Sabyasachi further to delve deeper into his expansive design process, how he hopes to be received by new audiences, and more. Read on for the full interview below.
How does this collection differ from your own brand?
“Wanderlust” as the collection name (not-so-subtly) is largely inspired by the wonder and experience of going down the very real rabbit hole of traveling and exploring the rich diversity of our many cultures. It’s an acknowledgment of our differences across borders and oceans, but also of what binds us together. We’re a bunch of global nomads, notwithstanding the pandemic, of course, but if anything, the last year has been a reminder of the significance of travel in our lives. So prints and embroidery that form an integral part of my brand find a very real place in this collection, where we have used artisanal techniques and, with the aid of technology, we have been able to scale it up.
We’ve seen the boundaries blur in couture with street inspiring bespoke—this was a chance to explore that the other way around, so you see the details of couture but with elements of streetwear.
What does expanding your audience globally mean to you— specifically for customers who aren’t as familiar with fashion beyond American and European designers?
I don’t think we’re restricted by geography anymore—our tastes and our sensibilities as creators and consumers are now seeking authentic products and experiences that we can find in markets all across the world. And my collaboration with H&M is a great introduction to new audiences, even as it makes my brand accessible to those who know us. But it goes beyond me—I think what collaborations like these achieve is that it firmly cements India as a market that the globe can no longer ignore.
What was your biggest challenge in designing this collection?
It was surprisingly smooth, honestly. They understood my vision from the start, and were very encouraging throughout. My biggest apprehension was when I created the master samples—I kept wondering how H&M would translate them into production. But my fears were calmed the second I saw the collection!
Your designs are so rich in color and textiles, yet this collaboration is a lot more accessible and muted. Why did you choose to take this route?
We do a lot of Indian bridal couture, which is, of course, rich in colors and textiles. But our repertoire is more expansive, and also includes printed saris, garments, and even home textiles, where the color palettes range from jeweled tones to the more earthy and pastel. With this collection, I wanted to take a part of India that would be distinctly Indian, but shape it with a more global sensibility. Basically, I wanted to create an international collection with an Indian soul—heritage but made contemporary.
What do you want customers to take away from this collaboration?
Honestly, I want them to have fun with it and enjoy it, and find a piece of themselves within it, as they interpret and wear it in their own way. And as they engage with this collection, they will become familiar with a more nuanced idea of the modern Indian aesthetic, beyond the cliched fuchsia pinks and dancing peacocks. There is a strong and vibrant contemporary clothing culture that exists in India that is deeply influenced by our rich heritage of textiles and crafts, and it’s versatile and wearable and beautiful. I hope this collection sparks that sense of wonderment to discover more, to be more mindful about our stories, and embrace what modern Indian design has to offer.
The Sabyasachi x H&M collection will be available in stores and online at hm.com on August 12.
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