The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Designer turn: Sabya finds a spiritual healer

If Sabyasachi Mukherjee was searching for universal appeal with his spring-summer 2005 collection, he surely got it in Milan.

But if buyers haven't got him to sign on the dotted line yet, there could be a number of logistical reasons. After making his way into Browns in London, the 28-year-old caught the eye of the fashion community here after his show at Fiera Milano on September 25.

But in peak season, with the whole city bursting at its designer seams with shows and parties, few buyers have, so far, made it to the inconspicuous venue at Via Moscova 33, chosen for the Asia Week trade exhibition where Sabyasachi's clothes are on display.

Tuesday evening was scheduled to see representatives from Browns ' who have promised to bring with them other clients ' dropping by.

That is not to say the Calcutta designer's clothes have gone unnoticed even in the uninspiring environment. A rather interesting American-Italian spiritual healer has parked herself by his side, with an offer to market his line as part of her Aurology label of lifestyle-for-healing products.

An elderly Italian writer was so won over by his line she declared that Sabyasachi's expression of womanhood was a world she wished to inhabit.

On a more this-worldly note, Alessia Villa, a buyer representing Les Nomades, a Swiss lifestyle boutique, made serious enquiries about stocking Sabya's collection. 'The proprietor, Elizabeth Ribeiro, saw Sabyasachi's work in a magazine in India and sent me here to meet him,' smiled the petite Alessia, examining the 'very beautiful, very Bohemian' collection of skirts and dresses, jackets and tops.

He will be the first fashion designer from India at the store, if the deal comes through.

Faces of Bengal

The disappointing venue played host to a rather dismal display on Monday evening. Anjali Jewellers, which has put up a hugely successful display at the Via Moscova, organised a jewellery show with long breaks in between sequences and rather questionable clothes.

While their jewellery lines ' divided into high-end precious metals and gems and more affordable designs on silver ' have been moving with speed off the table, the attempt at a ramp show was ill-conceived.

First of all, with just three models, it is impossible to really call it a show. After a first appearance in a set of jewels, the girls disappeared for a few minutes before returning to the makeshift runway in the second set.

A dance performance by Tanushree Shankar's troupe also fell desperately short of the mark. With a second show scheduled for Tuesday night at the Bengali Evening, one can only hope there is a happier attempt to showcase the best of Bengal.

A more pleasant taste of the state was to be had at the Tea Board stall. The London office of the Calcutta- headquartered organisation is promoting the beverage among a rather immature tea-drinking market in Italy.

There is hope yet of converting the coffee-crazed Italians into tea loyalists.

Germany, after all, has the highest per capita consumption of tea in the world, explains T.V. Nagendra Prasad, acting head of the Tea Board, London. In fact, in Hamburg, people know tea so well that they can recognise the aroma of specific gardens.

The samples of Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri blends have gone down well with the uninitiated audience. All that remains is Marie biscoot and Anandabazar Patrika to make it the perfect Bengali morning in Milan.

Armani chatter

Back to the business of fashion, which, as it turns out, can be as hectic as it is glamorous. In a bid to leave the tensions of Fashion Week behind, three Italian marketing pros got together for a leisurely dinner in a north Milan home on Monday evening.

The host for the evening was a delightful woman with a history in top fashion houses, including Armani and Gucci. While she, on the wrong side of 40, has had enough of the high-powered corporate game and is now a consultant, one of her guests was still getting ready for the Armani shows at Moda Milano the next day.

While working for Giorgio, it seems, can be truly inspirational ('he really is such a genius') it doesn't come without its quirks. 'He always talks about himself in the third person,' they said, not wishing to be named, for obvious reasons. 'Mr Armani is tired now' is the kind of thing he would be known to say.

At 70 years of age, he does have the right to be tired. If he doesn't show his years, sources reveal, it is because he still works out for two hours everyday, first thing in the morning.

Traces of megalomania aside, the head of one of Italy's top design houses is also known for his ability to bring out the best in his employees. With a company 4,000-strong, this quality, insiders say, is the key to his long tenure at the top.

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