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Sabyasachi Mukherjee opens up about depression, failed suicide attempt and being inspired by Madonna
Sabyasachi Mukherjee is one of the most celebrated designers in India, he had dressed the likes of Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli and even Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas for their weddings! It is safe to say, that Sabyasachi has been having quite a moment of late.
And the 45-year-old designer, whose designs are always in the spotlight, somehow doesn’t wish to be in it at all. The designer is furiously personal, and his quiet and demure personality comes through the few times he does interact with the media, and in a recent interview the ace couturier opened up about his demons, self-doubt and frustrations.
Earlier this year, Sabyasachi put up a post on his Instagram that a lot of people deemed sexist, misogynistic, filthy and outright ignorant. The post quoted Ms Havisham from Great Expectations and below Sabyasachi had written, “If you see a woman ‘overdressed’, caked with makeup, armoured with jewellery, it is most likely that she is wounded. Bleeding inside, silently. Holding on to her pride and dignity, shining for the world, though within her innermost being there is a dark blinding pain. Take some time to give her your precious company, heal her with your empathy, because nothing can replace human warmth. Not even the most precious of jewellery.”
After facing severe backlash for the post, Sabyasachi issued an apology where he clarified what he meant, saying that he had worked in the industry for over twenty years, and that’s where he had experienced much of what he had written about. His apology post read, “I thought a lot about whether to post this, but sometimes it is important to set the record straight and get the right message across. Having been in the fashion industry for over 20 years, I have encountered it firsthand and commented about it in many of my interviews – how, while many women use fashion and beauty for joy and self-expression, others use it as ‘retail therapy’ to fill in the gaps and voids in their lives.”
He went on to write, “We, as a society, often get extremely judgemental about peoples’ clothing choices, calling them ‘overdressed’ or ‘tacky’ or ‘inappropriate’. We fail to understand that maybe some are using these as coping mechanisms to put on a brave front to make up for the lack of a support system. The true essence of the post was to ask people to be aware, empathetic, and not judgemental of peoples’ personal clothing choices, which could be a manifestation of their internal anguish.”
Talking about his own battle with mental health issues and depression, Sabyasachi wrote, “One of the bigger issues in society today, that very few people address, is mental health, and a little bit of awareness, empathy and kindness go a long way in acknowledging it. I have coped with crippling depression as a teenager for 7 years. I found my coping mechanism through radical clothing choices.I was sneered at and bullied, but it helped me find my way again.”
He further clarified that when one is in a position to influence, one must do so in the right direction, and that although his original post may have many flaws, it was to invite introspection and debate. And although the designer did apologise, he said that it was only because he made a ‘blanket statement’ and not for the message he was trying to put across. He signed off writing, “And I, for one, have never shied away from speaking about uncomfortable truths, no matter how disruptive it might be for my personal gain. Because when power is given, social responsibility should not be shunned. The mistake, however, was to use the reference as a blanket statement, as sometimes when we are passionate about an issue, we end up becoming overzealous and hence, tone deaf. My sincere apologies for that.”
In the past too, at an event in 2017, Mukherjee told India Today that depression is a natural occurrence, as common as the common cold. He said, “I was depressed, and I tried to kill myself. I was unconscious, and my mom gave me a slap. I was sad at moving to a new place. Moving from Chandannagar to Kolkata was like moving from suburbs to Paris. Depression is as common as common cold. If you’re not depressed, you’re not normal. My depression gave me a lot of clarity. Had I not been depressed, India would’ve lost me to some company called Google, in San Francisco.”
In a recent interview with ETPanache, the designer spoke at length about mental health, an issue clearly close to his heart, talking about his failed attempt at suicide. “I got into severe depression when I was 17. I tried committing suicide. It was a failed attempt. Mental health in today’s day and time, with this quick pace of life, is becoming more pronounced. And people need to understand that it is not something that one needs to be ashamed of or fear because it’s quite normal. And we need to just address it as normally as possible.”
He even attributed his lack of self-expression in his formative years to his creative outburst, “I think a lot of us creative people suffer from a lack of self-expression. [At the time] I was a creative person in the wrong education stream. I was studying medicine, then economics, wasn’t very sure what I would do.”
All those issues caused Sabyasachi to resort to radical dressing, he said to ETPanache, “Self-expression helped me cope with the frustrations of not being able to find a creative outlet, I started expressing myself by dyeing my hair orange and wearing ripped jeans with safety pins on them, inspired by Madonna.”
Talking about body shaming, insecurities and fashion, he said at the 2017 conclave, “Before the internet, you saw your sorrows to be just yours. Now you come across women like you, and that gives confidence, and influences consume behaviour. Earlier it was about fashionable women, now it’s stylish women. Style is more about you rather than the world.”
The designer added that it is when one believes that they don’t have a support system that they resort to extreme measures like suicide. “I think the big stigma that happens to most people comes from isolation where people think I’m probably the only one who’s going through it,” he said, adding, “But when you reach out to a community you realise you’re not.I think right now there is a lot of conversation happening on mental health and everybody can find their community, sometimes if not offline, then definitely online.”
Talking about whether he has relapses every now and then, and Sabyasachi admitted that his issues aren’t as severe as they used to be, “It [depressive episodes] doesn’t happen to me anymore. I have too creative and too fulfilling a job.”
And when asked how he copes with those, even rare, moments of doubt, he exclaimed, “Food! I’m Bengali, we love eating. And a little bit of extra sleep just picks me up.”
Beat the denim blues, choose white for your next pair
In the 1999 film Never Been Kissed, Drew Barrymore’s character Josie goes undercover for a feature on high-school life. Her biggest problem is looking the part. Josie finally picks a pair of white jeans, gets to school, runs into the school fashionistas, and is slapped with an, “I don’t think you’re supposed to wear white jeans after 1983.” How things have changed! White jeans are having a moment in the spotlight. “I recently chose a pair of white jeans for actor Ananya Panday. White denim is so in,” says stylist Sanjay Kumar Dauhaliya.
When white denim burst on the scene in the ’50s, it was out of rebellion. “The 1950s saw denim banned in some schools [in the US]…for being a bad influence,” mentions the Levi’s India website. The story goes that students then bleached their blue jeans white to find a way around the ban. By the 1960s, however, white jeans had found an icon in former First Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy. Her slim, ankle-length white denims inspired a cult following.
This season, H&M India has multiple white jeans options for women, from skinny ankle-length to loose boyfriend fits. “White denim is especially popular in the summer,” says Alok Dubey, CEO of the lifestyle brands division at Arvind. The 2019 summer look is all about “mastering the art of denim layering, the cool-and-conscious girl’s take on double denim is achieved through careful co-ordination,” says Dhatri Bhatt, head of communication, H&M, India.
For Dauhaliya, one of the best things about white jeans is that they can be paired with any colour. The flip side? They are less form flattering than a blue or black pair.
A model walks the ramp during a fashion show in Paris in March. ( Getty Images )
Wear It Right
For a day look, pair skinny white jeans with a white top or soft pastels. For the evening, choose a darker shade top.
Since white makes one look a little broad, off-shoulder tops work well with white jeans. They add a little volume around the shoulders and have a balancing effect.
While wearing white-on-white, go for neon accessories – sneakers, danglers, a clutch.
White denim miniskirts are also in and are a great summer option.
– Sanjay Kumar Dauhaliya, stylist.
Mango season:Celebrate the king of fruits in style
The colours of the mango, be it ripe or raw, have always caught the attention of the fashion industry. Be it bright yellow or the combination of light yellow and green, the colours have always found its way into our wardrobe. This summer, add the flavour of the mango to your outfit and check out what’s in store.
“The summer season is all about vivid bright colours, the colour of mango adds a twist to the whole ensemble making it a fashion statement. Also, yellow as a colour is a natural source of positive energy and the colour is also associated with happiness making this the perfect colour for this season. Adding this happy hue to the wardrobe will brighten up one’s summer attires,” says fashion designer Dolly J.
When you think about the fruit, childhood memories do get you nostalgic. Similarly, fashion designer duo Rishi and Soujit incorporate their memories and the many shades of the mango in their creations. “We have always been fascinated by the colours of the mango. The shades of bright yellow, green, lemon yellow and sage green should be a part of your outfit because food and culture gel well with fashion. So this mango season take inspiration from the king of fruits and try and add a few shades including canary yellow, bumblebee yellow and mango yellow to your wardrobe,” adds the designer duo.
We take a look at how the king of fruits has inspired not just designers but quite a few Bollywood celebrities, too.
Actor Kajol is an epitome of fun and frolic and the bright yellow ensemble complements her personality to the T. An ideal summer dress for the red carpet, the fluid silhouette and solid colour makes it a must-have for those who love all things bright and beautiful.
Actor Kriti Sanon’s green joggers teamed with green blazer is casual and chic. You could add varied colour combinations in lighter shades for this look. While joggers give a sporty vibe, the blazer gives it a semi-formal look.
All That Glitz
Same colours but in different shades can make or break your outfit. Actor Bhumi Pednekar pulls off this sheer green top with so much confidence. She teamed it with a darker shade of metallic green giving it an edgy look. What makes this outfit click for a night out, is the extra bling the skirt brings to the party.
Outfits that look chic in the mango colours, yellow and green:
Pant suit: It could be either in a solid green or yellow. Try and not combine yellow and green together, unless you are Ranveer Singh.
Anarkali: The colours are a favourite and go with any Indian outfit. A yellow or green anarkali with contrast embroidery definitely suits any occasion.
Bikini: Soak in the summer sun, with a bright yellow or dark green bikini. You could break the monotony with contrast polka dots or floral prints.
Pleated skirts: Keep it long or short, a dark green skirt with pleats teamed with a white shirt or ganji makes for a fun and flirty summer outfit.
Jumpsuit: A favourite on a hot summer day, the jumpsuit in a mango yellow shade can never go wrong. Accessorise with a head scarf and you are summer ready.
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