Within just five years of being launched in India, on Tuesday January 21st, Swedish fast-fashion brand H&M announced a collaboration with renowned Indian bridal couture designer, Sabyasachi.
Featuring in the dreams of every Indian bride, his designs are as maximalist as they come, echoing traditions through indigenous craftsmanship and textiles, while catering to the Indian elite and a repertoire of celebrities from Bollywood actresses to Oprah Winfrey.
The pre diffusion line features Indian textiles with cultural prints brought to life through handcrafted pieces. Social media teases the collection with videos of draped fabrics in blues, mustard and pink decked with traditional embellishment, along with visors, fanny bags and jewellery. The designer revealed that inspiration comes from Morocco, Istanbul, Seville, Jodhpur and his hometown Kolkata.
Not to be seen as just another name on H&M’s cherry-picked list of designers, the Sabyasachi x H&M collaboration, themed ‘Wanderlust’, will showcase a mix of modern and traditional silhouettes with a nod towards athleisure and glamping.
Set to be launched later this year on 16th April, the offering will see apparel and accessories, both for men and women.“I’m happy to announce the collaboration with H&M, as it allows us to spread the Sabyasachi aesthetic to a broader audience in India and worldwide. Having done couture for the majority of my career, it is stimulating to bring that finesse of craft to ‘ready-to-wear’ and create whimsical and fluid silhouettes that bring relaxed sophistication to everyday life,” said Sabyasachi.
While no price range has been released for the line, it is expected to be competitive and affordable, quite diverse from other Sabyasachi designs. The collaboration will be made available in the 50 plus H&M stores in India, select flagship stores globally and online on HM.com
Given H&M’s explosive expansion in the country, the decision to collaborate with a celebrity-akin Indian designer shouldn’t be a surprise, despite being a choice a reasonable few steps away from the brand’s usual picks. According to Livemint, a financial daily, 2019 saw H&M open multiple stores in Indian metro cities and ramp up online sales with 40% growth in two quarters of the year; the brand also closed strong in 2018 with reported sales of 1.58 billion dollars.
Ella Soccorsi, concept designer at collaborations & special collections, H&M shared in an official statement, “At H&M, we are thrilled to announce our collaboration with iconic Indian designer Sabyasachi, known for his dynamic use of indigenous crafts and textiles - a language so stunning, that it permanently altered the fashion and design landscape of the country.”
No doubt Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s work has earned him numerous laurels both in India and internationally is known for its ornate embellishment and intricate handmade pieces that take days of manual labour.
“Heritage can only sustain itself if it is dynamic,” said the designer, who has often attributed his fame to being connected with the grassroots of the industry.
Meaningfully supporting the livelihoods of those he employs while capitalising on age-old Indian handicrafts, the designer employs 3000 artisans in 18 craft clusters from the states of Kashmir, Rajasthan in north India to Tamil Nadu in the south. In 2013, the Sabyasachi Art Foundation meticulously crafted a ‘Save the Sari’ non-profit initiative to give renewed hope to local ‘karigars’ (artisans) and ensure continuous handloom production of localised native weaves, all while catering to the crème de la crème of Indian society.
Given his artisanal and ethical approach, curiosity and dubiousness behind the motives of the collaboration are inevitable. But given the fast-paced fashion industry, where triumph must be instantaneous, this is most likely a gamble. Moreover, it’s only fitting to begin the third decade of reign in the industry with such projects up his sleeve.