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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Fairy tale before fashion Olympics

Sabyasachi Mukherjee recounts the hours leading up to the biggest show of his career so far at the Milan fashion week.

My preparation for the Big Day started with a good night's sleep. I realise this is the trick to a good start. While my assistants went out for a late dinner after finishing work, I managed to slip out of it and go to bed. Surprisingly, I managed to sleep like a log. Perhaps it was the exhaustion and my body just gave up. Or maybe I realised that there wasn't much else to do.

I woke up relaxed and calm, which I took as a bad omen because I am usually very edgy before a show. Someone suggested that perhaps age was finally catching up with me! I took a long hot shower and then had the thankless task of dragging the girls out of bed.

Jojo and Yatan are fabulous stylists so they insisted that the make-up call start at 8 am. The models all looked as though they hadn't slept in days, but this added to the rumpled just-got-out-of-bed-and-hit-the-streets look. Their hair had already been done the night before, also for the slept-in look.

Breakfast proved to be an unpleasant experience. My Bengali roots were showing. I need non-veg food, especially eggs. Even the coffee was disappointing. But at the table was the first time I heard the music. The show coordinators, Aparna and Tanya of Preferred Professionals, have done a lot of my shows and they know what I was looking for. They didn't let me down.

A firang listening to a walkman while walking down Howrah bridge. That was the mood. There was Bach, Beethoven and Mozart and retro love tunes interspersed with street sound.

All the while I was waiting for the panic attack. But it didn't happen. It was actually all very organised ' with a lot of help from my assistants. Vikram is my backbone, and Pallavi, Divya and Sohini were a huge support.

But 10 per cent of the show is always last minute inspiration. So I went for a walk in search of the final touches. Whether it is a peach with a beautiful colour for a model to munch on while ambling down the ramp to set off a green dress, or a twig to hold, it depends on my mood on the day.

Finally, I got a little nervous when I saw my name on the gate, alongside every major design label. As a new designer, it had felt like a fairy tale. Till I saw it in black and white, it may have just been a fluke. For me, this was the high point of the day.

I anticipated that the backstage madness was going to be worse than usual, because abroad, shows happen much faster than they do in India. The 18 girls would have to be changed between sequences in seconds. We let them have a few sips of wine to soothe their nerves, because Milan can be quite like the fashion Olympics. They realised that they were representing the country, not just a designer.

A lot of the indications about how a collection will be received come from backstage. The vibes from the local media told me there was nothing really to worry about, even though most of their questions were in Italian!

Then the music started and all hell broke loose. There wasn't a moment to think till Joey, the last girl, walked on to the ramp, followed by a gaggle of giggling models, eating chocolate for the final bow. I saw my assistants slump to the floor in exhausted relief.

When the press entourage rushed backstage I realised success was finally ours.

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