Childhood & Early Life
Sabyasachi Mukherjee was born on February 23, 1976 in Kolkata, India to middle class conservative Brahmin parents. His mother Sandhya Mukherjee was a government employee who worked in handicrafts and taught in a government art college. His father Shukumar Mukherjee was a short tempered man and after he lost job, he turned his frustration on his kids.
Sabyasachi was 15 years old then and was interested in arts ever since he was kid, owing to his mother and the fact that Kolkata has always been known as the cultural capital of India had a great impact on his psyche. Sabyasachi grew up in the family with a younger sister who was born seven years after him.
The family went into a deep financial distress when the father lost his job and hence, he compelled Sabyasachi to study hard to land a decent government job. But he had different plans altogether and wanted to pursue fashion designing. Once he finished his 12th grade, Sabyasachi applied for National Institute of Fashion Technology to study in its Kolkata center.
When his family refused to pay for his entry form, Sabyasachi took it upon himself and sold off all his old books. He studied hard to pass the entrance exam and graduated from the institute with flying colours in 1999. Upon graduating from the institute, Sabyasachi started his self titled label in a small shop in Kolkata and hired two other designers to be his colleagues. But he was still very far from his career’s first major break, which came 2 years later.
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In 2001, he participated in the Femina British Council’s annual competition and won an award as Outstanding Young Designer of India. This further led him to gain a great appreciation in India and international fashion world. Following his award win, he was selected for an internship with Georgina Von Etzdorf, one of the most renowned designers in the international fashion circuit. Following the internship which went on for a few months, Sabyasachi came back to India and started working with India’s leading fashion brands as a designer.
In 2002, he debuted in Indian mainstream fashion world with India Fashion Week, where he presented some of his designs that received a strong critical reaction. The best models in the event wore his designer dresses and it was a strong mainstream beginning for Sabyasachi. It was also another major step in the direction of becoming one of the most successful celebrity fashion designers of India.
By the year 2003, his talent was already making waves internationally as he made his runway debut in Singapore during the Mercedes Benz New Asia Fashion Week. By the time the event culminated, he was named the recipient of the ‘Grand Winner Award’, which further contributed in him getting more offers from the international fashion brands. Furthermore, he got the chance to work alongside maverick designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier. During the Lakme Fashion Week 2003, he introduced a new design ‘Kora’, which received a thunderous response from the national and international fashion critics.
In 2004, Sabyasachi experimented and mixed the traditional Indian attire with bohemian fashion and named the line ‘The Frog Princess’. He introduced the designs in Miami and Kuala Lumpur Fashion weeks. One of his stores in London was further named by Vogue as the best shopping destination in the world, which established Sabyasachi there as well, which was yet another major feat.
In 2005, he went a few steps ahead with experimentations and during his spring-summer collection for the year he introduced ‘The Nair Sisters’. The collection featured some hand block printing, bagru and embroideries and the intricate use of cotton and hand woven fabrics became its signature. The collection was showcased at the Browns & Selfridges store in London and got sold within a few days of getting showcased. Later in the same year, he was requested to present his designs at Oxford University’s black tie charity dinner which happens to be a yearly event.
The New York Fashion week 2006 further turned out to be a major feather in his hat as his label Sabyasachi finally started selling worldwide. To make the collection unique from other designers, Sabyasachi went bold with his choices of colours and designs. For the maximum impact, he used the glamour and folklore in an effective way and mixed them with the paintings of seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Europe to enhance the artistic credibility.
In the same year, he became the first Indian designer to feature his collections in all three major fashion weeks in the world- New York, Milan and London. Sabyasachi gave the rich Indian culture and traditions credit as one of the major reasons for his international success. He emphasized on the point that most young Indian designers copy west in their designs and that is one of the reasons for the unoriginality that keeps them away from attaining international fame.
In 2012, Sabyasachi’s collection closed the PCJ Delhi Couture Week held in the national capital of India. There he showcased his new collection called ‘New Moon’, which featured five different world cities as its theme. The cities that he based his collections on were Berlin, Kolkata of British Raj, Paris, Barcelona and New York. The former Bollywood Diva Sridevi was the showstopper for the show and showcased the sari designed by him.
In 2008, Sabyasachi collaborated with GAJA brand and introduced a jewellery line and the collection was further showcased in Vogue Wedding Show 2016 and garnered a major critical acclaim. At the 2015 Amazon India Couture Week, Sabyasachi collaborated with a French designer to present a collection of footwear, which had the trademark Sabyasachi embroidery on them.
Apart from being one of the well known designers in the national/international fashion weeks, Sabyasachi has dominated the Indian film industry as well for many years. Over the years that he has been active, he has designed costumes for films such as ‘Guzaarish’, ‘Black’ and ‘Laaga Chunari mein Daag’. For his work on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2005 film ‘Black’, he won the National Award for Best Costume Design.