On An Aside

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If you are in London between now and the 15th of May, check out Sotheby’s ‘Inspired by India’ featuring designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee. You’ll see some exquisite saris and, a range of specially commissioned shawls and headbands in the ‘Inspired by India’ selling exhibition of contemporary design. And if/when you do go, tell us how it was!


Below is an excerpt from the P.R note:

Sotheby’s highly regarded curator Janice Blackburn shared her verdict on the grandmaster of Indian Fashion in her enunciation on Sabyasachi ,“He is to my mind the finest and most original of the Indian dress and accessory designers. He doesn’t look to the West for his inspiration but rather the colourful low life of India — gypsies, the desert, Bollywood. His work is very Indian but in a way that in the West we understand and appreciate and value.”

On her selection Blackburn says “I visited and travelled extensively in India for many years and am particularly interested in crafts such as weaving, tie-dying, embroidery, enamelling, paper and so on…. It is sad that most of the skills and craft traditions we associate and value in India are dying out and not being passed on to the next generation who prefer to go to the cities. Much of the work is now mass-produced and poor. But there is a new generation of designers who are adapting these traditional skills and using them for well-designed contemporary work. This is what interests me. I have met and worked with several of these designers before. Sabyasachi clearly was someone special. His workmanship is exquisite – all handmade – embroidery, beading,” said Blackburn. “He has the finest aesthetic and stays true to his Indian roots. I have followed his progress since he first began designing and am absolutely thrilled he has agreed to exhibit in ‘Inspired by India’,”

Says Sabyasachi Mukherjee on this selection, “I’m feeling happy that I am being recognised for being Indian, primarily for being myself. I have always said that the only way to become global is to have a local soul. And I am really happy that this is being validated time and again in my career.”

12 COMMENTS

  1. “He doesn’t look to the West for his inspiration but rather the colourful low life of India — gypsies, the desert, Bollywood.” –

    Sotheby’s highly regarded curator certainly doesn’t shy away from Orientalism, stops a few steps short of being condescending.




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    • I agree whole-heartedly. I loathe the condescending orientalist tone of the curator’s recommendation. It is paternalistic and characteristic of an earlier era.




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    • Surprised they didn’t throw in maharajahs and elephant howdahs for good measure (that may be more accurate though). Enough of the opulence – if you have to be frivolous, please look at freedom fighter chic!

      PnP Vidya wore a nice Sabyasachi for a Sydney Morning Herald interview. Looks lovely apart from the sameness.




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    • Designers usually look to the “high life” of India i.e. the maharajas for inspiration. Take the recent Chanel Paris-Bombay collection, McQueen ‘s Maharaja collection or just about any collection “inspired by India”. So the gypsies, the desert and Bollywood make up the oh-so-colorful-and-exotic “low life” of India, to this person. Either way, this labeling of certain sections of Indian society as “low life” is steeped in orientalism and economic elitism.

      Why not just have the fabulous Mr Sabyasachi send them a blurb about what inspires him? From whatever I have read about him he seems to be so fiercely proud of his Indian roots that I am sure he would be offended by this piece.




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  2. I have no words for his creativity ..his works are simply magnificent ….you guys should check out the final episode of band baaja bride …he designed a ethereal Green lehenga ….i sooo wanna get married again :(((




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  3. wow…this Blackburn woman needs a crash course in cultural sensitivity and a treatment for “foot-in-the-mouth” disease. There is some truth in what she says but that is
    1. not true for all Indian production
    2. true for most nations.

    Extremely paternalistic and patronizing, I fail to understand why she is “highly-regarded” when she has such a narrow world-view.




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  4. Blackburn’s comments are soooo demeaning. But I can’t help to think that perhaps she watched Band Baja Bride which introduced Sabya and made her own conclusions from the show. Sabya mentions his love for Kolkatta, the inspiration for much of his designs. Such a vivacious city to Ms. Blackburn seems “low life” ….let’s credit her ignorance for not doing any research before speaking.




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  5. Blackburn could at best be given the benefit of doubt for using the term “low life” for gypsies,etc. as in case of most countries. However placing bollywood in the same regard is not even paternalistic to me…its sheer idiocracy. She should put her holiday allowances to good use & choose her words better.




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