NEW DELHI, INDIA, January 6, 2003: Sharbari Datta is giving a sartorial flare
by reviving the traditional Indian men's garment. She is the first to introduce
the concept of colored silk dhotis, angarakhas, achkans, bandhgalas, sherwanis
and kurtas and has successfully created a revolution in men's fashion. Datta
says, "I sell my designs and not my label. Why shouldn't men of today be dress
conscious? They are no less beautiful than our women." .....visit
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She has revived traditional Indian menís garments by giving them a sartorial
flare. She is the first to introduce the concept of coloured silk dhotis,
angarakhas, achkans, bandhgalas, sherwanis and kurtas that have successfully
brought in a revolution in menís fashion. She is the designer to hold an
all-male ramp show to display her clothes, a concept that was a nip in the bud
in India. Yet she says, "I sell my designs and not my label". She believes in
fashion being an integral part of Indian
culture. "After all the civilisations of Mohenjodaro to the Mughal have revealed
the dress consciousness of our men. So why shouldnít men of today be dress
conscious? They are no less beautiful than our women," she points out. She also
candidly admits that being a woman she loves men and have always loved to design
for them. Indiaís first menís couturier, and trend setter in menís fashion talks
to Kalpita Basu about motivates her to design clothes for men.
Sharbaridi, what makes you different from other leading fashion designers apart
from the fact that you are a menís couturier?
Firstly, I have no resemblance to any fashion designer. I am the only one to
deal with menís garments. No other designer in India is devoted exclusively to
traditional menís garments other than myself. I do not imitate any fashion
designer and in this respect I am a trend setter who has revived traditional
garments by giving them a contemporary look. You buy one design of mine and be
sure that the design will not be repeated anywhere. Each design is exclusive of
the other. Secondly, and the most important part is that I do not consider my
clothes as works of fashion. I prefer to call them works of art as they come out
spontaneously. Whenever my client buys my product, he buys my design. Therefore
it is the design and not a label that I sell. It is a different thing that in my
buyersí eyes these are fashion garments. For me my clothes define an art form.
Where did you get the inspiration to design menís clothes?
Designing has always been my forte. Although I have never had any formal
schooling in art or designing, I have always had an extra edge in creativity. I
was married very young in a joint family where I had to perform the duties of a
daughter-in-law to the hilt. I completed my B.A. in Philosophy from Presidency
College and M.A. in the same subject from Calcutta University only after my
marriage. But the thought of taking a professional life never occurred to me. My
designing was till then strictly restricted to painting alponas or decorating
brides with chandan. It was only in 1991 when my relatives inspired me to do
something that I held an exhibition at the Conclave Hall. The decision to design
menís garments then was absolute and the concept of coloured dhotis and
angarakhas with elaborate embroidery was what I wanted to introduce. My friends
and relatives feared that the dhotis would not sell as I had restricted my
exhibition to traditional menís garments only. But my clothes sold and I decided
to call the press for my second exhibition held in the following year. The
wonder worked and there has been no looking back for me.
You said that when you are designing, your work flows spontaneously. Are the use
of motifs and colours also spontaneous?
Absolutely true. When I am designing, I work spontaneously. I am more of a folk
artist who draws as she feels. I treat the material I am working on as the
canvas of my creations. An artist of the tribal world would draw pictures as he
perceives. These may not be real though. Similarly, I draw motifs as I feel like
and the way I perceive them. The same can be said of colours. I would like to
repeat here that I do not follow any trend. It is my trend that has created an
effect in menís fashion today.
So it is the folk motifs that you restrict to?
No, it is not just folk motifs that I work on. I also use classical elements in
my design. But yes the stress is more on folk motifs as I like folk culture. I
have an exposure to all types of art, coming from an intellectual family. Motifs
of African folk or Mexican folk art find familiar place in my clothes.
We have seen you a hold an all menís ramp earlier for displaying your clothes.
In January 2001, it was the display of menís jewellery that brought male models
together. Tell us something about your decision to design jewellery for men.
Dressing and wearing jewellery are integral part of Indian civilisation and this
holds ground for both men and women. It was only during the Victorian age that
dress codes were introduced for men. The notion was that the gentleman should
ideally dress in a suit, trouser and a tie and he could not go beyond this given
code. This is absolutely pitiable given that our tradition is rich in materials
and ornaments. Till date following the Victorian age, menís jewellery has been
restricted to watches, tie pins and cufflinks. I am trying to go beyond these
standardised items and designs to make menís jewellery more attractive and
How did your jewellery attract media attention?
The credit goes fully to the World Gold Council. It so happened that I was asked
to take part in a symposium organised by P.C. Chandra Jewellers. The symposium
was on jewellery and each of us was asked to speak on jewellery. The World Gold
Council representative was also present there. I had casually said that I
started designing some gold jewellery for men. The idea appealed to the World
Gold Council representative and he formally asked me to get ready for a ramp
show, which would be organised by the Council itself at Taj Bengal. The
jewellery displayed on the ramp were Kamarbandhs, Bajubandhs, armlets, bracelets
and necklaces. Some of the leading jewellery houses have been vying for
collaborations ever since the ramp show, something that I am myself keen on.
So what kind of jewellery we will see from Sharbaridi?
I will not disclose that. Work is in progress. You will only come to know of it
by the end of July or the beginning of August when I will officially call the
press where I will show my work. But I promise you that you will see a different
work of art than what you have been seeing in menís jewellery and accessories.
Are you confident that menís jewellery will take our young men by storm?
I am 100 percent sure about it. Yes, I can definitely not say that today I
create some exquisite piece and tomorrow everybody will start wearing it. But
the trend will definitely show after in another five, ten years. Just like when
I introduced the black dhoti 10 years back. Men did not start wearing it the
very next day. But the trend seeped in eventually. Today even a village boy is
wearing a black or a coloured dhoti at his wedding reception, though he may not
even know who Sharbari Datta is. Not all people can afford to buy from me as I
cater to a distinct clientele who can dish out anywhere between Rs 6000 to Rs
50,000. I have buyers from all parts of the world today. But the important
aspect is that you get to see many stores and boutiques keeping black or
coloured dhotis and coloured kurtas and angarakhas at a far less price. And
people are buying. I expect the same to happen to menís jewellery. The most
important thing is to set the trend and keep it flowing.
Thank you Sharbaridi.