Between the Queen of England and the Nizams of Hyderabad, designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee has his plate full. Arguably the country’s most famous designer, thanks to his associations with actors Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan, and his zardozi-kitsch aesthetic, he is someone who never tires. He says he lives out of his suitcase and that’s the only life he knows.
As if shuttling between Delhi and Mumbai wasn’t enough (hands-on Sabya is often spotted at the shop floors of his stores in these two cities), the Kolkata-raised gent now opens his third store — a flagship, nonetheless — in Hyderabad. Why here? “In size and scale, Hyderabad is much bigger. Kolkata is where I grew up and where my production is based. As a design student, I did my first exhibition in Hyderabad with Craft Council of Hyderabad, this is my payback to the city,” says the 38-year-old.
Like his other stores, this one at Banjara Hills takes you back to another era — there are pink walls bedecked with old photos, wound-up clocks and memorabilia, the ceiling is filled with falling lampshades. “I’ve always been fascinated by Indian surrealism, the constant repetition of these items only enhances that. From the music to the incense to the textiles and carpets — it all holistically entrenches the Sabyasachi look in the minds of the customer. Everything is handmade by impoverished artists aided by the Sabyasachi Art Foundation. And technology is carefully hidden away only for functional purposes,” he says. It’s also the lure of the Hyderabadi ladies — who the designer describes as either “cultural with a strong sense of tradition” or “very fashion-forward society ladies”— that make his label, an amalgamation of fashion and textile, thrive here.
Life also comes full circle when it takes Sabyasachi to London, a city that fell in love with him when he was introduced by the cult fashion boutique Browns almost a decade ago. Sabyasachi had travelled to London for a textile show at Sotheby’s and was staying at the 51, Buckingham Gate hotel, when the general manager offered the interiors of a special suite to the designer. “He knew I was doing interesting interior work within my own stores and also had a strong foothold in Bollywood,” says the designer. Hence, the Cinema Suite, inspired by the finest names in world cinema. “I didn’t want to turn the suite into a cinema museum, I thought it would be nice to be inspired by cinematic visions of some great masters,” he explains, “What inspired the suite was the sophistication of Francis Ford Coppola, the gravity of Satyajit Ray, the nostalgia of Merchant Ivory films and the intellectual eclecticism of Pedro Almodovar. For a person who enjoys cinema, the references are easy to understand — subtle but out there.”
Sabya says he was involved in everything from the wallpaper to the plumbing, but his favourite bit was the 85-inch Plasma TV. “All you need to do is press the movie mode on your control panel, dim the lights, the blackout blinds silently unfolds, gourmet popcorn is served, and you can tuck in your feet under luxurious cashmere and sit back and enjoy your movie,” he says with a laugh.
(The writer was a guest of Sabyasachi in Hyderabad)