Vidya Balan dresses in his outfits off and on the screen, and chose her trousseau from his collections. Oprah Winfrey ignored all other Indian designers and visited only his store in Mumbai on her maiden visit to India. Even Sridevi, who made a comeback to the silver screen after more than a decade, had Sabyasachi Mukherjee as her stylist for the film English Vinglish. “The journey has come a full circle this year with the socio-political atmosphere being such that many young people are now proud of being Indian and want to show that in everything including the way they dress,” Mukherjee says. “Suddenly the Indian within us is awakening.”
Mukherjee feels this has been the year when his work has been truly understood. “We have been trying to push the Indian sensibility for the last 10 years,” he says. “In the beginning when we started it was noble, then people said Sabyasachi does the same thing over and over again, but when you have an Indian story to tell, you can’t invent it all the time because then it looks hollow and shallow. We stuck to our guns.” He finds a similarity between his career graph and Balan’s. “People trashed her, then applauded her for being Indian, then said she was being repetitive, and when she chose not to react to that, eventually got won over and started lauding her,” 38-year-old Mukherjee says. “What has happened with my career this year is that people have realized that this guy has a mission and it’s sensible. It’s not that we are doing something remarkably new but we have, finally, hit home.”
Apart from kitting out famous names—the list includes actors Rani Mukerji and Bipasha Basu—Mukherjee has been busy elsewhere. In February, he was invited to participate in the “Inspired by India” exhibit by Sotheby’s in London to showcase Indian textiles and embroideries; he was involved with designing the interiors of a movie-themed suite at Taj Suites & Residences in London; he launched the Sabyasachi Art Foundation in Kolkata. “My brand will peak in 2014-15 because right now we are sitting on top of a volcano,” he predicts. “We have had feelers from within the investor community. L Capital has been one of them; we have had a dialogue with them about taking a major-minority stake in the company.” Perhaps the cash fusion will help Mukherjee realize his “biggest dream”, which is “to start clothing India between price points of Rs.800-5,000”. “Design is only successful and sustainable if it touches a large number of people because if it becomes a privilege of a special few then design ceases to be dynamic,” he says.