BB: You opened for LFW in 2015—a show that had a rather 70s vibe with models wearing shimmery hemlines, palazzos and Lennon sunglasses. The Grand Finale is just a few hours away. What are your expectations?
Sabya: You know I’m 42 years old. For me, it’s not so much about scaling parameters anymore. I just want to make sure I do a good show. For me, it has to be relevant to the times and convincing for myself.
BB: What is it like to put together a Grand Finale—is the pressure far more than usual?
Sabya: No, it’s not so much of a pressure situation for me. It’s more worrying for Lakmé because it’s ultimately their show and they need to be worried about my performance. If things don’t go well, I’ll just push the blame on them (laughs). Having said that, it’s not really my first finale with them. I don’t want to sound arrogant or jaded but the fact is that you learn to take it easy with time.
BB: You will be working around the ‘Illuminate’ theme for this collection. How does that come together with Sabyasachi couture?
Sabya: Well, Illuminate is an inner radiance. Illuminate as a makeup range will make women look beautiful, irrespective of whether they wear Eastern clothing or Western clothing. For me, if you gave me something more avant-garde it would be difficult for me to follow but illuminate is beautiful and so it was an easy theme to follow.
BB: Tell us a little about the hair and makeup in the show.
Sabya: I can’t reveal much. But I think we might keep the hair sleek; probably, a straightened ponytail but the makeup is going to be a bit iridescent—maybe a strong eye with a pale mouth or a strong mouth with a pale eye. You’ve got to wait and watch!
BB: What’s the best thing a fan has ever done for you?
Sabya: Oh my God! This really embarrassed me to bits and I felt totally ashamed of myself. I had written a post for a magazine where I had mentioned that I love tiramisu. So there was a woman who took permission from her husband, flew down with big a box of tiramisu all the way from New York on my birthday. She came to my store, gave me the Tiramisu and flew back the same evening. I was really stunned. It’s not even stalker love because she’s a very happily married woman, she just loves the clothes! I felt so flattered.
BB: Since you’re one of the most celebrated designers, you’re also judged rather closely, which can sometimes, take the form of criticism. Does that affect you in anyway?
Sabya: You know, when I dressed Vidya (Balan) for Cannes, I was treated like a National terrorist. But like I’ve always said, when you’re a loved brand, the opinion makers of the brand are the customers and not me. When you put out something in the universe, you have to take judgments in your stride—positive or negative. It’s all good as long as they don’t alter your own opinion about what you think is right.
BB: Today, there are so many small designers who have imitated your work. Does that anger or flatter you?
Sabya: It doesn’t flatter or anger me. It makes me feel sad. I just tell people one thing—if you really want to make it big, have an opinion that’s yours.
BB: You’re one of the most sought after designers we have. Yet, you always maintain a low profile. Is that a conscious move on your part?
Sabya: Oh, very much so. I stay tucked away in Kolkata. I don’t go to parties where people tell me I’m the next best thing after the sewing machine. For any designer or creative person, it is important to create that network of isolation around them so that they can be convinced to stay in their path of thought.
BB: As a role model, you’ve always encouraged women to embrace their natural body type. What do you have to say to all the girls who believe that the only way to fit in is by being a certain size?
Sabya: See, the idea of size zero was made by big brands. A woman who really buys a lot of couture or expensive clothes will probably buy it after 30 or after having two children. So she cannot go back to being a size zero. It’s impossible. Brands create this imagery of beauty that’s unattainable just to have a carrot dangling. But I also feel that today, women are so much more confident because they’re connected to each other through a big tribe called the internet. So that kind of marketing doesn’t help anymore. My brand has always stood for women who are secure in their identity. For them, size is just statistics. We don’t patronise size.
BB: Where do you see brand Sabyasachi 20 years down the line?
Sabya: I want to build a global brand, I want to build hotels, I want to do films, I want to get into organic beauty. I want to start a culture foundation that helps create a platform for struggling artistes. I also want to write a book. I’m quite a mountain climber that way (smiles).
BB: If the buzz around is anything to go by, Kareena Kapoor Khan is set to be your showstopper this evening. True or false?
Sabya: It’s true till it happens. Till now, it’s true. I’m quite excited. Kareena and I had briefly met long ago to collaborate on a film that never took off. She’s worn a lot of my clothes, thanks to her stylists. But I’ve never really done anything collaborative with her in real time. This will actually be the first time.
BB: Finally, what does Lakmé as a platform mean to you given that you made your debut on this very stage?
Sabya: It means everything to me. I’m a loyalist. I stayed on in Lakmé because I found my first footing in the industry because of them.