This week, the Sabyasachi x H&M collection debut was one of the most anticipated events for Indian fashion aficionados. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, a Bengali designer, teamed with H&M, a Swedish multinational apparel retailer, to create a line of cheap clothing and accessories for consumers who desired to own a piece of couture. On August 12, the collection was released at a few chosen stores across the country as well as a few overseas locations. It was also made available online through Myntra and HM.com, two shopping apps.

However, fashionistas all around the world were so excited to get their hands on this one-of-a-kind collaboration that the entire collection was sold out online within minutes of its launch on Thursday. Social media posts were littered with memes and comments where some people expressed their displeasure at the range of items produced by Sabyasachi for the retail store, while some complained about not being able to access the online application in time.

In the midst of all this public debate, the designer released a statement on Saturday in which he explained his side of the story. Sabyasachi commented on Instagram, “Keeping in mind, we produced in abundance.” The designer went on to say that he and his colleagues were baffled by the response. “It’s not even overpowering; it’s just plain perplexing. It’s one of those things that you can’t predict even with the best forecasting, analytics team, supply chain, and logistics in the world.”

Many internet users, however, have pointed out that some of the fashion influencers were given special access. Many influencers were seen wearing the collection in the weeks leading up to the launch. “There were VIP previews,” one user pointed out, “though so many social media personalities got to see this even before we could.” We couldn’t even experience it when the time came.”

About the Collection

The collection, dubbed ‘Wanderlust,’ debuted on August 12 in 11 H&M stores in India and select H&M stores in 17 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. It also sells on Myntra and hm.com in 48 international regions.

Pleats and prints

Mukherjee, 47, had three requirements for H&M: it had to be an India-centric collection, have a sari, and have a major portion of the manufacture done in India (90 per cent has been made here). “Our cooperation with Sabyasachi is the latest in a long line of successful global collaborations. H&M’s Head of New Development, Maria Gemzell, states, “We look at recognized designers in order to bring normally inaccessible, made-to-measure, uncommon and costly items to the masses.” The Swedish multinational apparel retailer has been diversifying its approach to collaborations. It did a capsule with Beirut-based designer Sandra Mansour last year, and their capsule with Columbian designer Joanna Ortiz was released right before the epidemic hit.

“I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish with H&M,” Mukherjee says. It had to be something timeless, something that was inexpensive but didn’t fall prey to quick fashion’s trash trap. As a result, the pandemic, with its discussions about sustainability, has made the collection more topical. Sabyasachi x H&M features 22 women’s clothing pieces, 13 men’s clothing types, and 32 accessories. The viscose georgette sari, which features a print inspired by his homeland of Kolkata, is only available in H&M stores in India. “It was designed for the Indian customer who adores Sabyasachi saris but cannot afford them.” He recommends wearing it with pyjamas and one of the collection’s T-shirts.

Playing to his advantages

If you’ve read any of Mukherjee’s interviews, you’ll notice that he frequently mentions his poor beginnings and his muse Madonna, who has yet to wear one of his costumes. (Kim Kardashian and Naomi Campbell, for example, have worn his designs.) The one person he would most like to see in Wanderlust is the Queen of Pop, who follows him on Instagram — “she only follows 368 people, so this is a big deal,” says the designer. He did, in fact, send the collection to her.

Mukherjee makes it apparent that his idea of sustainability is influenced by his background in the middle class. “There is a responsibility on both producers and consumers when it comes to sustainability. “This collection is about wearable, classic, and economical clothing,” he says. This is also how the slow fashion advocate defends her collaboration with H&M, the fast-fashion behemoth.

All of his couture hallmarks, such as the regal Bengal tiger, are referenced throughout the collection.

H&M chose him because of his particular style. “We chose Sabyasachi for a designer partnership since he is India’s indisputable master of couture,” Gemzell explains. However, if you believe traditional = boring, you’re mistaken. Wanderlust is a riot of color and designs with an Indian heart but a global appeal. He was inspired by French toiles, kalamkari, and other textiles for each print, which he hand-painted to scale (and later digitally replicated by H&M). It’s also perfectly timed, as Sabyasachi has his sights set on the worldwide market and has already selected a location for his flagship store in New York.

It’s a mix of resort and street style, with a dash of wanderlust

To date, it is the wedding couturier’s most street style collection. “My debut collection, Frog Princess, from 2004, was always bohemian,” he recalls. Wanderlust is, in many ways, a return to his roots. It’s possible that the fact that it was delayed was to the designer’s benefit.

 

As travel restrictions begin to lighten, this collection is on trend with a joyful jet-set capsule that is easy, ageless, and can be worn up or down. While making it, the designer admits to having many dialogues with the young members of his design studio. But it’s also a collection designed with his personal style in mind. He says, “I like to pick clothes that are really versatile and can travel well.”

Wanderlust was designed to be inclusive of all genders and sizes. As a result, he anticipates men wearing women’s pyjamas and women wearing men’s tunics. Fashion jewellery purses and belts are also included. Chintz is a major influence on his prints, which may seem self-evident while developing an India-centric collection. “I want to glorify cliches,” Mukherjee adds, which is one of the reasons she uses the Taj Mahal as a motif on her purses. Clichés are cliches because everyone loves them.”

He has worked with denim for the first time and given it a responsible twist by turning it into pyjamas, ensuring that they will fit you no matter how your waist size changes. The designer, who is recognised for his attention to detail, is known to live in his pants. “There’s something quite lovely about loose clothing because it allows your mind to focus on things other than hemlines.” He believes that while comfort clothing will continue to be popular, we will see a return to glamour in the way we dress.

His favourite piece from the collection is the salwar kameez, which comes in tunic and pyjama bottoms.

Netizens’ Responses to the New Collection

While some were enraged by the fact that the collection sold out in minutes, others were critical of the collection’s high price tag. A saree and a brown shirt and trousers drew the attention of numerous internet users. One commenter likened the saree to her grandmother’s and joked that at least her grandma didn’t have to sell a kidney to afford it.

In India, the brown shirt and pants were compared to the outfit of an autowala or bus driver. Needless to say, this collection sparked a meme frenzy on Twitter.

The Bottom Line

In the meantime, Wanderlust has elicited mixed responses in India. Many people on social media have criticised the designer’s choice of cotton viscose, despite the fact that he has always emphasised the importance of handlooms. Despite the disputes, Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s collection was nearly sold out in minutes, proving that no other Indian designer understands what customers desire as he does.