I wish they were 99 questions -but equally awe inspiring was my project for Marie Claire India magazine to interview designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee in Kolkata for their section ’50 Questions’.
The experience to meet one of the leading men in Indian fashion and travel to a city I’d heard so much about but never been to was thrilling. A week before the meeting I started writing down questions to ask him. Began with thinking how I would manage 50 Qs, I ended up with 70 which further became 90 during the interview. After all, this was not a new designer whom we dont know anything about. This was a designer who in a very short time period achieved great success and reputation in India and abroad. It is inspiring especially to see how his popularity grew home bound first and then international. To me that is a very new achievement in our growing industry. It is easy to achieve status when international celebrities and press deem you as worthy; but when you convince a strong minded Indian audience to a new concept of clothing and make it mainstream while not changing your design belief is something to take an education from.
He is also a grounded man and spent 2-3 hours for this interview. The studio and team felt like a cosy institute where after spending a day you wish to be part of the group.
Print article in Marie Claire India June 2011 issue. (Congratulations on the 5 year anniversary MC!)
Below are some exclusive images from Sabyasachi workshop along with extra Q&A that didn’t make the print copy.
Sabyasachi holding a piece from his jewelery line. Custom-traditional Indian jewelery is how I would describe it. Here you can see the back side details of the necklace that has motives of his favorite things like rain and red roses.
Mannequins at his bridal studio which is an appointment only studio within the workshop
Almost all processes occur within this workshop. Here a wall of block prints to create unique fabric patterns.
Once the fabric is dyed (there is a team of dyers in house), It is taken here for inspection and for drying.
Colors make an Indian designer. Here the dyes are used on different fabrics of his choice – silk, cotton, khadi, net etc
A basket full of threads
Many tailors have found a home here. It was interesting to see them have their different school of learning and religions yet work in a cohesion.
One of the most unique rooms – the room of past fabrics. Designers come here to play a game of match with their one piece of the garment. They put together different fabrics/prints/colors/embroidery together and create unique new looks.
Almost everything is either created or recreated to be as original as possible. Even the threads have been dyed to probably match a particular shade.
The embroidery room is like the chocolate heaven in Charlie and Chocolate Factory. A crazy mix of beads, sequins are on display here.
Sabyasachi strongly believes in the power of artisans over machine. After all no one can replace the skills of these hand embroiderers.
Even the loo had the ethos of Sabyasachi in it. The vintage Amitabh Bachchan photo in an old frame was the icing on the cake.
- What memories of fashion do you have from when you were growing up?
I think my fashion moments were defined by Zeenat Aman wearing skimpy clothes and gyrating to ‘laila o laila’ and ‘aap jaisa koi’ in Kurbani.
- So what was in your case the calling to be a fashion designer?
I never knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. I liked sketching. There was an interview of Rohit Khosla that I saw on TV. I climbed the wall with my friends and gate crashed Rohit Khosla fashion show in Saturday Club (Kolkata) in 1992. I saw his show and decided I wanted women to wear pretty clothes and walk up and down that stage.
- What was your first job?
My first job was given to me by Koena Mitra as a choreographer for Miss Bengal. I worked very hard for a month and got a full pay check of Rs. 1000. And I can’t tell you how happy I was.
- What did you do with this pay check?
It’s a funny thing. Our family wasn’t going through a very good time and I would hate the detergent my mother used to wash our clothes with. So I bought a dozen packets of the same detergent that I wanted and still remember she slapped me for it. She couldn’t digest how I spent 1000/- on detergent. It was too much money and I was scared it would get stolen so I just wanted to spend it.
- You have a very soft spoken, well mannered nature. In fact we hardly hear any controversial statements from you that other biggies are almost expected to make in the industry. How do you stay away from the controversies?
I think I am too boring for controversies to quote me. And also I never used PR for personal reasons. The press that the business gathered has been purely based on the product. And I am happy because the kind of person that I am, it would be really tiring if I constantly had to sell myself to sell my clothes.
- Usually when an Indian designer becomes as popular as you have internationally, it is because they have shown at Paris/Milan or NY. Even though you have shown at NYFW, the fame has been home-grown. What do you think would have been different if you would have shifted your focus to an international market and continued with NYFW?
I think a lot would have changed because honestly if you really need to become iconic and do something of consequence, it is really important to start closer from home. To move away from NYC to India was a very conscious decision because to me it is not about making a few frocks and sell it to a few white skinned people whom you don’t have an interaction with, but to see people in your country wear the clothes, in my case it is more of the copies you see than the originals, is more satisfying.
- Your relationship with publicist and author Kelly Cutrone.
The first appointment was set up by Fern Mallis from IMG (for potential PR representation by People’s Revolution). Kelly saw the tape of my show and said “I really liked the clothes, but I love the music more. I am a big fan of Leonard Cohen.” And I am the biggest fan of Leonard Cohen! I had two other meetings lined up for PR representation, but I just liked Kelly’s company and decided she is going to represent me. The good thing about Kelly is that we don’t work together any longer but there is a certain amount of madness in her which is very sweet. Most PR people can become a little cut-throat and Kelly has a certain degree of compassion. She is a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and I went to Sri Aurobindo Vidymandir School. So I think we have a karmic connection.
- You have done the best slot shows in the Delhi, Mumbai and Couture FW. Would you rather have one fashion week every season?
Absolutely. I think for a country as naïve and untouched as India, if you really want to grow here you need to get out of fashion ideas that stay on for one or two seasons. (Example) When I first started reviving the kalidar a lot of people thought it was a lot of fabric and very few people would get into it. Only 3 years later the kalidars became my highest selling item and still is. So in India, people are far more conservative when it comes to shopping and we have far greater values than the West. So for us to get an item that we consider an ‘in thing’ today which we can’t wear is 6 months later is rude, obnoxious and almost preposterous. So I think just doing two fashion weeks is sheer indulgence. And honestly, apart from Delhi where the hell is a winter and summer defined in this country?
- You seem to juggle the traditional craft and modern tailoring very well. The mixing of ultra modern with the classic Indian. Is it a challenge to create new styles using the techniques that have been there for ages? Both physically and mentally.
Mentally it is a challenge for sure. You have to constantly push the envelope and fit both in. But today I am a lot more relaxed because I have identified the woman for Sabyasachi. And I see this woman as someone who probably carries one handbag throughout her life. A lot of press has told me I am repetitive. But my woman is the kind of woman who understands what looks good on her and she sticks to it rather than getting under the fashion pressures of trying something new every season. She is not in the rat race to be a number 1 or number 10. She is happy being number 5.
- That is a unique vision, because at one point or the other every woman I know has wanted to wear your creations. So if they all believe in your ethos, then there is something wrong with what the other businesses are doing?
I think so. The reason more and more people are coming to buy me is because of the security of knowing that ‘if I get a Sabya, I can wear it the rest of my life and not worry about throwing it out of my closet in the next 6 months.’ I like women to come back knowing ‘here is a guy who didn’t chip us out of our money. But here is a guy who gave us something that our great grand children can value also.’ That is why brands like Chanel are doing tremendously well right now.
- But you know fashion is all about change. Infact where would Chanel be if it wasn’t for constant revival by Karl Lagerfeld and his team.
Ofcourse change is very important. But you know there is something called as physical change and there is something called as the change of ideology. It is fine as long as you don’t change internally and the physical aspects keep changing. If you look at Sabyasachi, rip out all the labels and you will still know it’s our garment. The sensibilities speak out. And that is most important. When I see a lot of other designers – especially a lot of young kids – I can’t really understand or identify a signature.
The thing is that we do this consistently, and we do it well and we get good reviews on it because we really believe in it. You cannot pull a con job in front of a million people every season. Today we do change, but somewhere down the line the core values of the brand are developed and we understood very early on what direction to take.
- How much importance do you pay to technology advancements in fabrics, prints and craftsmanship? Are there some things which you would not want to change?
You can’t really move forward without technology. But having said that how much of it you use is also a very pertinent question. Today you can’t really move forward without respecting what the past gave you. It has to be an amalgamation between your past and present. In today’s market there is a big overdose of technology in every thing – from the food we eat, to products we see, to music we hear. Somewhere down the line, what people are missing is a little rusticness of the things from the non technical world. Today when I hear the remixes, I want to hear the originals more. When I eat fusion food, I rather stay at home and have simple home cooked meal. What technology has managed to eradicate is also the innocence and simplicity of hand crafted products. For my company I have a very simple rule – If a machine can do the work of 5 people, let’s kill the machine and hire 5 people.
- Your clothes have wisdom about themselves. They are seldom what they appear to be. The fabrics have been progressed and been through many phases to have that history in them. Is that the definition of beauty?
My design philosophy stands for personalized imperfection of the human hand. When I look at a woman who is too beautiful she is almost mechanized to me. So I like some flaws and freckles here and there to add to the beauty of the woman. Similarly, I like textiles and embroidery to have a little bit of character and age in them. I think men and women really start looking beautiful after 40. When you look into their eyes, you see the world through them. Certain amount of gentleness that comes through. The aggression of youth – the urgency of trying to do things is not there. You settle down and you actually get to see the person in full glory because he’s been addressing himself from within. And that kind of inner beauty for me is very appealing. That is why when I look at clothing, I see clothing that has been gone through a period, an age, a bygone era. I have always been very influenced by this poem which says ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.’ and that defines more than life for us. We are constantly running. Everything is perfect and digitized. We shy away from imperfection and we hardly get any time to reflect. My clothing wants you to do that – know what the past of India was, what the textile is, where it came from, how it was manufactured…. When the product is not interactive for you to ask questions from within, I think it is a failed product.
- Your name is synonymous for wedding trousseaus. Was this a conscious direction?
It happened on its own. I love doing elaborate Indian clothes and where do you wear those clothes but at a weddings or sangeet. It started making me loads of money as well. So I decided why not make money out of something you truly enjoy doing. Also remember everyone wants to look conservative and dignified in a wedding and ours is a brand that is synonymous for not stripping women to their bare essentials. I can say today that for about 90% people married in this country who are of consequence – they need to have one Sabyasachi thing in their trousseau- even if a dupatta. It makes me feel good that every time a wedding happens our name comes up and that is great flattery!
- Your clothes seem to appeal to the young girls as well as their mothers and grandmothers. What is it about your clothes that make for such a wide audience?
It is a very simple thing: A sense of timelessness and non pretentious pure good Indian clothes. Also there is a very justified co-relation between price and product – which is the reason why the business is scaling so much. In short we try to cut the fat of fashion. Its fine to satisfy your frills and fancies, but you will come back to your daal-chawal and Sabyasachi at the end of the day.
Besides a Sabyasachi creation, what should a woman invest in (for her wardrobe)?
A Chanel bag. Why? My sister is someone who has a lot of horse sense in her head. She is the kind of girl who is getting married in a Khadi sari. When I took her out shopping she looked everywhere and eventually went for the classic quilted bag. She said “this is the handbag I would like because it hasn’t changed in years. For me it represents me – I am a middle class girl who puts in a lot of hard earned money to buy a bag. My bag better last me for the next 50 years.”
- To own couture garment is a luxury for the rich?
No, I don’t think it is a luxury any more. I think it is a necessity. And that is very sad. Today you don’t own luxury because you want to own something which is fine, but because it elevates you to a status of being a ‘somebody’ from a ‘nobody’. Buying good things just for the sake of self-elevation in a social scenario is a very sad state for the womankind.
- A woman with no brains or with no heart/soul. What is more appalling?
Definitely the woman with no heart and soul. When you say a woman with no brains, it is very strange thing because even heart and soul has a brain. But a woman who doesn’t have a heart and soul is actually brain dead. So when I look at the brain aspect, I would look at a more spiritual angle. I don’t buy the logic at all when you say today if an MBA merits that you have a brain.
- But your woman is all about the intellect as we see season after season on the runway.
True. She is an intellectual but with a very strong emotional angle. At the end of the day if you don’t have sensitivity, you wouldn’t even buy my clothes. You wouldn’t understand the pain on fine hands that replaced one machine. So I think you need a little bit of sensitivity to understand handwork. And if you don’t, you are not my customer and I am okay with it.
- If you are to be stranded on an island. You can take one person, one food item, and one item of your choice with you. What would they be?
I would take my mother as I’ve not been able to spend a lot of time with her in 10-12 years. I have drifted apart from her because of my work pressures. So I want to catch up on the island with her. Food item I would take has to be rice. I am brain dead without rice. And I’d take my fishing rod to the island. Fishing has taught me patience and you need that in a stranded island.
- Another hypothetical question – You are to make a Sabyasachi Barbie doll. Where is she from, and what is she wearing?
She is from Kolkata, wearing a red and white sari with a red bindi.
- Your inspiration has often been directly or indirectly come from strong women – Frida Kahlo, Pedro Almodovar characters, Deepa Mehta films, etc. What is it about women that you love the most? And who is the most fascinating woman in your life.
Frida Kahlo. She is not in my life, I wish she was. But she is the one who has completely shaped my influence. It used to be Madonna at one point of time and it completely shifted to Frida and she is here to stay. What I like about women is that they have a certain sense of strong integrity in them. When you look at a woman who has lived her life fully, I think for me she is the definition of beauty. If you look at Kahlo – with her limp, amputation and uni-brow she was this infallible bundle of energy, wit and enthusiasm. For me there really has been no one quite like her.
- One woman (fictional, living or dead) that you would love to dress (and who has not worn your designs yet).
No one else but Frida Kahlo. If she was alive today and she had patented her look, she could have sued me for millions of dollars.
- Your popularity has gained with association from Bollywood actresses: Rani Mukherjee, Vidya Balan, Aishwarya Rai. How did this association begin? Did they come to you or did you approach them. Would your career have been different if it wasn’t for Rani Mukherjee and Vidya Balan
Vidya came to me. Rest of them it happened by chance or through (costume design for) films. Today no matter what I do, to a lot of mass population I am regarded as Rani’s tailor. Nothing I will ever do will change that. Rani has not really worn my clothes too much, but she still continues to be one of my loyalists and I am one of her biggest supporters. And that is how our friendship is defined as well. It has nothing to do with whether her stars are on the rise and mine are on the downfall.
If it wasn’t for Rani or Vidya I think my life could have been different because I don’t think I would have got the tremendous mass appeal otherwise. Rani and Vidya represent the kind of Bollywood you can reach out to. They are not exactly the pin-up girls for the rest of India- aspirations that you see and admire but you know you never reach. They represent people who are very real. A lot of real people can aspire to become like them. And I think my clothes stand for that also – you don’t really have to be a size 2 to wear a Sabyasachi. So the marriage between wearable clothes and identifiable heroins became almost like popular culture.
- Would you be happier if one day fashion is glamorous in itself and Bollywood is not required for publicizing it?
No, I think we should work with Bollywood and fashion together. No matter what fashion does in India, and I am talking from an idealistic point of view. India is a very emotional country led by sounds, sites and smells. Can you imagine what Bollywood would be if there was no running around the trees and dance and songs? Bollywood binds us like nobody else can and is much more powerful than politicians or even religion at times. When you already have an instrument to create so much of awareness in a country – I think designers should take view and learn to take benefit. When I did Raavan or Guzaarish, I did it with a single minded intention to promote Indian textiles. When people who would usually not venture out in chiffon or net saris look at Vidya in south cottons, they want to try that too. Because of that my weavers are getting tremendous amount of work.
- I heard that you are working on own film to be released this year. Will fashion be playing the lead role in this film?
Not this year. And fashion doesn’t play any role in it. You see I am not doing a film to promote my line. I am doing a film to do a film. To promote my line, could’ve used someone else’s film.
- I thought Aishwarya Rai looked the most beautiful in her role in Guzaarish. Besides dressing the character, what elements did you keep in focus while styling her?
When Sanjay came with the graph of Guzaarish we had a lot of things that were put in the original screenplay that didn’t go in the final films. Aishwarya’s character had an abusive husband and she was living in this house with this man to run away from her reality. I thought of her to be a little delusional. She would escape from her real life and she had a lot of time in her hand so she would make her own clothes. She would be the strange woman who to hide her scars would wear red lipstick in defiance so no one really questioned her. So people would whisper about this strange lady who goes into this house with her bag and umbrella. So I wanted to create a little bit of mysterious aura about her – why would someone in today’s day and age wear such decadent and almost borderline neurotic clothes? And when I look at her she was almost like a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She lived out all her little unhappiness and fantasies through her clothing. When you live out of this room with a quadriplegic for 20 years, how do you make your job more exciting? A lot of senior people came and asked me “My God, why is a nurse wearing red lipstick?” I didn’t justify to them. I have seen a lot of women when they go through an emotional crisis or repression, they either start over dressing or under dressing.
- In the film we saw hints of skin and layered maxi dresses on women. Was it something you did for the film or was it Sabyasachi’s take on the romantic notion of the film?
It was a great marriage between me and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. We are both traditionalists and we both do not like excessive skin as we think it takes away the dignity of the woman. It is a very Guru Dutt kind of feminity. And I think women like that. And you will be shocked and surprised to know how men like that too. Somewhere down the line there is a distance between a woman wanting to be a fantasy for a man and a woman who earns a man’s respect and the moment he would want to take her to his mom. Another one of the reasons my clothes do well because they never try to take away the dignity of a woman through our clothing.
- So you think boys are attracted to geeky girls?
Absolutely. This is one of the reasons why I have always used glasses on all our models. Oliver Barrett was insanely in love with Jennifer Cavilleri in Love Story and she was the geekiest girl I have ever seen. I think there is something really beautiful about a woman who is pretty but she is not aware of it.
- What is the first thing you notice in a woman?
Her ability to laugh. If a woman smirks or is very repressed I would not want to be with her.
- You have an experimental take on exposure. A little bit of skin peeking from a sheer skirt or hint of the mid riff exposed. Is this your idea to expose just a little bit of flesh but not too much?
When it comes to clothing, I am very inspired by notions of sexuality. This time a lot of my collection was inspired by retro underwear. There were these 2 tiny little dresses that the girls were wearing with boxers, they were inspired by 1950s swimsuits. So even if I did a bikini, would be a more quirky bikini that a Dita Von Teese would wear rather than Pamela Anderson. I am not averse to showing skin. But how it is being shown and what it represent is very important.
Part of body exposed and nudity can be extremely decadent but never vulgar. But when you try to cover just a little to titillate then it almost becomes pornographic and sensationalistic. When you approach sexuality there are very fine lines that take you from one sphere to the other.
Something I am working on in my head (currently) is bondage. Sexuality is something that exists within all of us. I don’t ever try to shy away from it. Every single one of my shows had a very strong undercurrent of sexuality – whether covered or exposed. If I am doing a sheer skirt, the bottoms will be almost masculine. Covering up is basically the antithesis of exposing. When you talk about exposing we correlate that to sexuality. When you see a woman’s underwear through her fitted skirt, it is more potent sexually than seeing a woman just in her underwear. It stimulates your mind to unravel. If it is unraveled for you already, then what’s the fun?
- You usually like to design full sleeved garments, high neck silhouettes. Even though you are from Kolkata and you design for a tropical country. Do you feel style trumps comfort? What is the balance between the two?
There has to be a balance. Even if I’m doing a churi sleeve, I’ll do it in muslin. I wouldnt do it in silk or satin. And layering is done for different reasons – gives you a sense of mystery and hides all the excesses that you don’t need to show. And a layered garment is not uni-dimensional. When you look at a flat garment, your attention span goes away very quickly. But when a garment has a lot of hidden details and folds – you can wear the garment differently every single day.
- Who’s the sexiest woman in your mind.
That’s a good question… I would again say Frida Kahlo. It is a very aggressive mind and that is what makes her extremely sexual. If you look at Frida she is almost primitive. But her age comes out through her clothes, her paintings.
- What do you think is the most erogenous zone on a woman?
The calves, neck and cleavage. One is an obstructer and one is in your face. But never the less are sexual.
- But we hardly see cleavage in your shows…
Well if you don’t see cleavage, you dream about it. And when you see cleavage you accept it. So it is there all the time – whether in view or not.
- What is more sexually appealing – mini or maxi skirt?
A maxi skirt of course. Because you want to wonder what is going on beneath it. A mini skirt is all there for you to see.
- You live in Kolkata – which is culturally rich but not the city where the big players of fashion reside. Does that ever come in your way of business or building of the brand?
Not at all. Kolkata for me is a manufacturing hub and it is where Sabyasachi resides. His clothes don’t reside in Kolkata. The funny thing is I don’t go to a single party; my clothes go to all and do the talking.
- Red roses make a recurring appearance in your shows. And I read that your favorite song is La Vie en Rose. What kind of notions does a rose bring to you?
It is extremely decadent and romantic. You can’t really replace a rose with an orchid. A rose is a rose. There is also a very strong Muslim connotation to it. Attar, French decadence, red wine, black and white films… I think for me a red rose is almost perverse and that’s what I love about it.
- Did you ever get a red rose?
Many, many times. All my life. I still do.
- So, is that one scent note we could expect in a Sabyasachi perfume – if there ever would be one.
My perfume would have four strong notes – jasmine, rose, frankincense and lime. That defines my universe.
- These are not very expensive ingredients to come from a luxury label…
They are not. For me if I was given a choice between Daal rice and ghee and worlds most expensive caviar, it would be daal rice and ghee. Cause they get my senses like none other. And I wouldn’t reject it because it is not well priced. I think some rich people are in a very sad situation in their life. From their ivory towers, they might experience life but they don’t live life.
- Fashion like other industries, is looking at sustainability of resources and maintaining an ecological balance. You had started the Save a Sari initiative. Would you elaborate on its role in the market?
I had gone with a friend of mine to one of the weavers in Andhra and I just realized that the entire family lived off the cotton sari that they made. The sari retailed for 1200/- and even if the weaver made 50% of that, which meant a family of 5 people surviving for a whole week on only 600 rupees? The defining moment came when I was watching Spiderman and heard the dialogue ‘with great powers come great responsibilities’. So I decided to lend my name to the woven saris under ‘Save a Sari’ campaign. The method was quite simple. We produced the sari within the weaver’s cost without inflation. Added the 10% mark up for sales. So you got a sari from Sabyasachi at a cost less than what you would find at a cotton sari shop. Must have sold about 3000 saris in the last 6 months and that was a great benefit for the single weaver. Now we want to do this with 10 weavers from different clusters. This is part of my Corporate Social Responsibility now. The weavers get the entire cost of the sari without the middleman.
- Currently you are one of the best known designers from India. What does the future hold for you?
I want to expand in the middle-class market. My jewelry line has taken off and is doing very well. I am also going to tie up for watches, handbags and shoes. And kidswear is coming out in September this year which I am very excited about. It will be retailed at around 3000-15000 rupees. Dignified Indian clothes that do not make young kids look like 23 year old bimbettes. It is not going to be inspired by the television industry.
- How do you feel about new age media – twitter, blogging, facebook etc
I don’t understand it (sheepishly).
- But are you not on twitter under @SabyasachiIndia!?
What? No, that is definitely not me. I am only on facebook which I don’t understand. I sometimes I put out all the wrong posts that everyone can read.
- What about the blogs?
I would love to start a blog. I like reading blogs more than I like reading press. I feel blogs are more fearless. I get the real picture through blogs. And I want to come out with this really arrogant, bitchy blog and it should put Shobha De to shame. I have a mind that is always outraged by what is happening. And I think my bark is much worse than my bite.
- Something people do not know about you.
Hmm… I am not all that serious. I laugh a lot, even at public spaces. I have a slapstick sense of humor. When I went to see Mama Mia for the first time, I danced non stop on the aisle. If I see the heroin being molested and the hero rescues her like a knight in shining armor, I am the 1st one to clap and whistle. I had orange hair when I was in school. I died my hair 4 times in a span of one day. I have piercings in both my ears that I got in high school after being influenced by Madonna. And I love disco! I could listen to Donna Summers, Boney M, Bee Gees, Abba, and Nazia Hassan for the rest of my life.
- If you weren’t a fashion designer, you’d be..?
A horticulturist, I love being amongst nature and I think it would give me a lot of peace of mind. Currently we are encouraging our bougainvilleas to grow at home.
Or I would have liked to be a waiter in a café in New York City. So I’ll get to meet a lot of exciting people.
- What would you like to be your greatest achievement as a fashion designer?
The fact that I brought Indian textiles back to India. To connect Indian people with Indian textiles and to make them feel proud of their heritage is something I would like to achieve.
- Future of fashion. An advice you would give to the new comers on managing design with business.
Have a singularity of vision. And it will be a matter of time when the world believes in you. It is as simple as that.
- Do genes play a role in making an artist? Did your parents have a role in making you interested in the arts?
Yes absolutely. My mum was a painter and she had a wide repertoire of saris- not the most expensive but the best. I also think not just genes, but also the way you have been brought up in your childhood shapes you. I lived a very agonic life in Chandernagore (outskirts of Calcutta). It was the only other French colony apart from Pondicherry. We used to go to school in a hand run boat. When I came back from school my friends were tall trees, river jetee, trains, squirrels and sunflowers. So I had a little ‘Alice and Wonderland’ kind of childhood. That’s probably one of the reasons why I grew up to be creative. I didn’t have to play cricket or football in close courtyards like many city children do. I was pretty much out in the wild.
- So did your mother let you be who you wanted to become?
Not really. My father who was a chemical engineer supported me more. My mother could never commercialize her art and was very scared that I would be a failed artist like her. So she had her reservations. She wanted me to become a doctor or engineer, if she had a choice.
- And now what does she say?
Well she still thinks I am a con job. She says ‘I don’t understand why people would pay so much of money to purchase your clothes!’ But I think secretly she is pleased with me.