Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the 47-year-old national award winner is a premier fashion designer and innovator who recently collaborated with Swedish fast-fashion brand, H&M, for a project called WANDERLUST. The entire collaboration didn't go well with the industry, with several brand engagers, influencers, social media stylists calling out Sabyasachi for uniting with a brand that is execrated for its unethical, and mercenary production practices.
Sabyasachi is a big name in India, considered a messiah for local artisans, and handloom workers. His ventures are often flipside of unique designs inspired by Indian culture and clothing styles that have made him the brand he is today.
The kind of history H&M tags along makes it apocryphal. From having ties with suppliers, forcing child-labor practices in Uzbekistan in 2012, to being accused of breaking the Clean Clothes Campaign with the International labor rights, certain incidents in the past have added to its global notoriety.
Why the collaboration?
Sabyasachi calls Wanderlust his lifetime chance to go cosmopolitan. He cites the collaboration to be an attempt to boost the pandemic-hit fashion industry, the unemployed and troubled handloom artisans, and why this had the knack that could take Indian local handloom and clothing to the International stage.
Understanding fast fashion is important, and how this particular branch of the design industry as a whole is backlashed for its practices. Fast fashion deals with producing trendy clothes, which often celebrities make headlines with. It could be a shirt unusually zipped, or pants that are heavily ripped. Such clothes become popular and hence attract mass assiduity. The fact that they can't afford the same stylist as a celebrity, these fast fashion brands produce them using alternative production methods, and sell at cheaper rates, such that they are affordable. Now fashion is such a volatile thing, it changes every season, and hence a season's conjuration might be too uncool to wear next season and are often discarded, contributing to the environmental concerns that are too worrisome today.
Another aspect of the entire controversy was the collection selling out of the collection minutes after the launch. While it was supposed to be something for everybody, one could hardly put anything in their carts before the entire shop went all out. Social media screamed it off as a pure marketing gimmick. Well, if Sabyasachi himself couldn't score a pair of denim for himself with the size he owns, it is an ambiguous label.
In a global climate evolving as fast as today, every industry needs to change how they work, and how they can contribute more than profits to society. For the fashion industry, fast fashion clothing, and brands that promote them are under the loop for some years now. For a brand like H&M that has so much more to its profile, some things do need to change. While Sabyasachi's attempt to escalate Indian fashion to better heights might have made some positive progress, it must not have been done at the cost of environmental consequences, and with a brand that possesses a hostility of that kind.
But, not everything is wrong with this international collaboration. A standout feature of the Wanderlust collection is its focus on gender neutrality. Men wearing saree is also a trend gradually picking pace on social media today. His commitment to values such as body positivity, sexual liberalism, not confining to modeling standards are a hotline of his fashion collections. India, which carries a culture so diverse, and each so authentic, is sufficient inspiration to be upscaled. But is a fast-fashion the way to do it? Honestly, dubitable. While it may look tempting to see Indian fashion modeled at a global brand store, it is yet treated as fast fashion and who knows in-store today, might not see light next season. That is how this industry works. Giving the respect and credit these traditional craftsmen deserve, is the responsibility with which the fashion industry is obliged to. Unarguably, their work is 'uneditable' since it is exclusive, through its handwoven methods and digitalization of the Indian couture is one way to deride it.