Shayan Munshi, who will be part of Sharbari Dattas show, poses in an outfit by the designer. Pictures by Pabitra Das
You are participating in the Banga Sammelan for the first time? How did it come through?
The North American Bengali Conference (NABC), popularly known as the Banga Sammelan, is being held for the past 29 years and for the past 10 years, on and off, they have been asking me to participate. In the past they have always asked me to go there and sell, which I was never interested in. This time, however, was different as they wanted to felicitate me by giving me a chance to showcase my work through a fashion show. I am going for it because I like their gesture of honouring me and also it would be a prestigious platform to show.
What will you showcase?
Its not a typical fashion show. We are putting together a Bengal panorama — telling the story of the states fashion development over the years. Theres a lot of emphasis on traditional Bengal weaves like tussar, sonamukhi silk or garad of Bankura and Bishnupur, khadi silk, Dhakai, Baluchari and Dhonekhali. The focus is on my mens wear collection but we will also show some womens wear because without that the fashion story is incomplete.
The mens wear line is an extension of what I showed at Kolkata Fashion Week — mostly ceremonial and formal clothes along with some westerns. There are the different traditional Indian styles as well as some smart jackets with silk shirts that can be worn with trousers. In womens wear I have done only saris, and I have sourced the rest — lehngas, salwar kameezes, tunics and more — from Dev R Nil and Jaya Misra.
How are you planning to create the storyboard?
Prasad Bidapa is doing the choreography for me and he is putting together the whole show. Narration plays an important role as we speak a lot about the Bengal fashion background through it. Some of the sequences are based on different social ceremonies of Bengal. We are using Bengali songs, Baul and other folk music. Shayan Munshi and (wife) Peeya Rai Choudhary are walking the ramp for this show and we plan to cash in on the immense popularity of The Bong Connection among the audience there.
What kind of clientele do you have in the US?
I have quite a sizeable clientele in the US. One gets to see a lot of my creations at the Banga Sammelan itself because many in the crowd wear outfits designed by me! The event is attended by Bengalis and other Indians from all over the US and even Europe. And its an opportunity for them to turn up in their best Bengali attire since the event has a festive feel.
The first mainstream fashion week you participated in was Kolkata Fashion Week (KFW) this April...
Its true that I have never done mainstream fashion weeks before, except Prasads mens wear fashion week in Bangalore. But with KFW, my sentiments towards the city worked. The organisers were also very keen to have me on board.
And how was your experience?
Very good. I got a lot of appreciation for my show. I have heard from other designers and the media that there were some organisational problems but nothing touched me as I attended only my show and did not hang around there at all. But even if there were some problems, I am ready to forgive since this was the first time.
So do you want to be part of the second edition of KFW?
Im not sure; depends on my other work commitments at the time.
And what about other fashion weeks?
I am not opposed to the idea of a fashion week but somehow it doesnt suit me. I am not in the rat race. Plus, I dont want anybody dictating terms as to when and how I will churn out my collections. I want to maintain my exclusivity, which is also why I dont retail from anywhere else. I treat my work like art and I am only fortunate that I have got so much commercial recognition. However, I might go for the Colombo Fashion Week early next year.
Why havent you designed for movies after Antarmahal?
Firstly, in movies the designer acts as a supplier of clothes and nothing more. Theres no liberty as you have to abide by the demands of the script. Secondly, it doesnt make business sense since the money is a pittance.
Have you never thought of venturing into womens wear?
No. I have been satisfied to the brim, in terms of appreciation and also commercially. Its not that I have pledged not to diversify, Im a designer and I can design anything. But Im not inspired to design womens wear. Plus, even if I wanted to I couldnt do it now since I am too loaded with work. My collections are booked for the next one-and-a-half years. And I work alone in my studio, unlike other designers I dont have assistants and fashion school graduates designing alongside me.
The image of your work is very classy and formal… how do you appeal to the younger generation?
I have clients right from 17-year-old students to elderly men. Members of the younger generation, too, want to have a Sharbari Datta in their wardrobe. I dont make clothes that they can wear round the year but only occasionally where one can make a fashion statement with traditional Indian wear.
Best-dressed Indian man…
Best-dressed Indian actor…
Hrithik Roshan. And Jackie Shroff
A designer whose clothes you like to wear…
Favourite designer from Calcutta…
Many of them are very good — Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Anamika Khanna, Kiran Uttam Ghosh and Monapali
A celebrity you enjoyed designing for the most…
Sunil Gavaskar. He gave me a complete free hand in designing. I also liked designing for Ismail Merchant
Which stage of the designing process do you enjoy most?
When Im making the initial drawing
When not designing, you love to…
Cook. Also, I love to watch plays