Sabyasachi For The Masses?

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Although the innovation behind the designer Sabyasachi is his willingness to break down barriers in traditional Indian designs, his movement towards historically cultural elements, signifies Fiza as a collection that serves to redefine the reputation of the designer, taking the classic elegance of a typical Sabyasachi piece, and combining it with a whimsical element, evidenced by the vibrant color palette, the prevalence of embroidery, and the use of the undisputedly “Indian” Khadi fabric.

The use of a uniquely Westernized color palette has been essential in the rise of popularity of Sabyasachi wedding wear. The muted tones, and generally heavy hues have characterized Sabyasachi’s ethnic fashion as high branded and luxurious. Through catering to the Indian desire to emulate European designs in an effort to appeal sophisticated, Sabyasachi has cemented his place among Indian designers. However, since 2017, and with this collection in  particular, he turns to an unabashedly Indian color scheme – of saturated yellows, greens, pinks and purples. Fiza marks the first time that a warmer orange tone has been a major player in Sabyasachi lehengas, contributing to the zeitgeist of designers who have embraced a purely “desi” aesthetic. This reversion, although not revolutionary, does evoke an image of the #JaiHind social media trend, that the designer himself has expressed affiliation with in the recent past.

The innately “Indian” theme of this collection is further emphasized by the emphasis of embroidery over embellishment, new to Sabyasachi designs. Generally notable for the bejeweled stone look of both blouses and lehengas, Fiza marks a new face of the Sabyasachi lehenga, one that finds grace in a silhouette of simplicity. Drawing on elements of minimalism, Fiza oozes a sense of effortlessness and charm, speaking to the core of Sabyasachi designs.

The focus on thread and cloth is taken to a new level by Sabyasachi’s shift to Khadi, a handwoven fabric, significant in the Swadeshi Movement during Indian independence, where European (specifically British) goods were boycotted. Given the context of Sabyasachi’s opinions on the India-Pakistan situation, the use of Khadi in his designs is suggestive of a nationalist spin on this collection, a detail that might be essential in marketing his designs to a younger generation of politically conscious millennials.

As Sabyasachi’s consumer base moves from a generation of Sridevis to a younger demographic of Star Kids, the audience is reminded that Sabyasachi is a brand before he is an artist. His lehengas elicit a strong emulation of the relaxed and carefree desi style of a millennial India, and the choice to launch Fiza exclusively on Instagram speaks to a business strategy that targets desi youth in particular.

This collection is reflective of a new Sabyasachi — a designer who is adapting with the changing times through molding his famed lehengas into the new standard of desi pride.

Sumedha Vemulakonda is an avid follower of Indian designer brands. Looking at pretty lehengas makes her feel connected to her inner Deepika Padukone. This article was originally published on her fashion and culture blog à la mode (alamode2239641.wordpress.com), and has been republished on the India Currents page. All images courtesy of @sabysachiofficial Instagram page.

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