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On back of Frog Princess, designer leaps to world stage
CALCUTTA BOYS SHINE: Young Sabyasachi breaks into tears as show catches international eye; Rahil wins golf crown in China

New Delhi, May 2: It took a Calcutta boy to do the impossible: make the models eat carbohydrates. In a show that was touched with the magic of bohemia, Sabyasachi Mukherjee sent out his models with loaves of bread that they munched on intermittently. Not that the show was just about “let them eat baguette” — there was plenty of meat to it too.

In a collection that took in everything from twill to velvet to crochet, Sabyasachi amplified the theme of Victorian romanticism with clothes that had a vintage, lived-in look to them. Acid washes and tea stains were used to give the fabrics a distinctive treatment, and such surface embellishments as embroidery and crochet inserts made for a look that was quirky and individualistic.

The collection took in everything from layered skirts to jackets with stain prints and embroidery, with the velvet line being the stand-out. The silhouettes were long and slim with lots of layering with the occasional variation of a pea coat or a blouson — shown over a sari.

The models were styled as artists — poets, painters, writers — in the making, who didn’t believe in personal grooming that much, hence the smeared lipstick and brassieres sticking out of cloth jholas. But, as the designer explained later, the woman he had in mind when he designed the collection was the Frog Princess. “These are clothes for the kind of woman who is only five-foot tall, but will still go to a party in flats. I want to dress the woman who is comfortable with her own body. These are clothes for the dreamer within all of us.”

As it turned out, these were just the kind of clothes that the international brigade was looking for. Indian media may not have understood the story that Sabyasachi was trying to tell and his fellow designers may have missed the point completely (one was even heard wondering why Sabyasachi was showing poverty on the ramp) but the international stars got it immediately.

Said Colin McDowell, senior fashion writer on The Sunday Times and one of the most influential critics on the international fashion scene: “These are clothes that could sell anywhere in the world.”

Agreed Albert Morris, the buyer from Browns: “These are absolutely beautiful clothes which also tell a story.” Morris is the man who discovered the Dutch designer Dries Van Noten, brought him into Browns and turned him into an international star. And now he has turned his discerning eye on Sabyasachi, who he believes has the same creative spark. When he said this to Sabyasachi, adding that he would like him to sell from the same space in Browns that houses Van Noten’s collection, the designer did what any sensitive Bengali boy would do in the circumstances: he burst into tears. Morris was kind enough to offer him a tissue and give him a 15-minute break to compose himself before returning to business.

If Sabyasachi does find himself at Browns (which seems a near-certainty now) he will have the kind of international debut that other designers can only dream of — and that, a mere two years after arriving on the Indian fashion scene with a bang in Fashion Week 2002.

While other Indian designers have retailed at mid-market department stores like Selfridges, Browns is a directional store, which sets trends that other mainstream stores follow. It also serves as a buying house for other European stores, so selling there could have a chain effect with other outlets scrambling to stock him as well.

One such store could well be Saks Fifth Avenue, whose fashion director, Michael Fink, was the other high-profile visitor to Sabyasachi’s stall, lavishing the designer with high praise for his creativity and complimenting him for the excellent finish of his clothes. A moved Fink promised to meet the designer at Miami Fashion Week later this month and then in New York to do business.

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