A person who can be best described as a ‘human magnate’, Sabyasachi Satpathy is not only a famous fashion and textile designer from Odisha but also a well-known TV personality. We saw him in Big Boss’s Season 11 last year giving an unforgettable performance.
An advocate for Swadesi handloom, Sabyasachi, in an interview with Cocktail Zindagi openly spoke about his life, his career and his dreams.
“At a young age of 10, when I used to see the tailors discarding the cut pieces after stitching clothes, I used to wonder why aren’t they put to use. So I would get them, mix and match them and create something out of those. That is when I thought that if we can make such lovely things out of waste, the magnificence of creating things with good cloth would be just amazing,” says Sabyasachi who has also hosted the auditions for Femina Miss India contest 2017.
Known for his vibrant collection and use of Indian fabrics, he says, “I am from Odisha, a state that is well known for its rich culture, heritage and textiles. I worked from textiles to designing. I started designing long ago for a select few, more for people who would ask me for it but they were showcased only after Big Boss. My life has been such a roller coaster ride that I could not stick to practising one passion only. I used to create interior stuff, decor articles among other things.”
Sabyasachi who believes in having a good karma, gives less importance to formal education and more to being passionate about what you want to do in life.
“I am not a certified designer, I am self-taught. I believe that if you learn something driven by passion, there is no end to it. If you pursue only a formal education, you might not take it seriously. It is all about the passion that you have that won’t let you give up,” he expresses.
“I gave the national entrance for fashion designing but didn’t score that great in it. I wanted to join the Delhi or Bombay centre but I could not get a seat there. Later, after some years, I was invited as a Chief Guest at the same institute which I wanted to get into but couldn’t. It is all about being patient and working hard.”
Sabyasachi’s popular brand ‘Keembdanti’, has an interesting story behind its name. Keenly he explains, “It is a Sanskrit word, in which ‘keem’ stands for ‘what’ and ‘danti’ for ‘saying’. So Keembdanti means, ‘What are you saying?’ When we listen to something that inspires awe, or something that is incredible we react by saying something like, ‘What are you saying? Really?’ That is Keembdanti. The word is inspired by the incredible ancient knowledge of India and its rich history.”
How does the designer, who chooses to stick to his roots and yet makes a name in the modern world strike a balance between traditional and contemporary?
He answers by giving a simple example, “Dhoti is an attire that every state of India, has known. But it is not easy to wear it. We have begun improvising on it by adding an elastic – and creating a new bottomwear like harem pants, which is very comfortable and airy. I make harem pants in a lot of designs. I also make blazers and sherwanis but I make it all out of handloom. I love to promote handloom from not just Odisha but other states of India as well. Instead of picking cheap foreign machine loom fabrics, I’d rather stick to my own roots.”
He goes on to make a valid point, “When we are talking about organic food and medicine, why not organic clothing? The weavers then get a chance to live a better life and create better things.”
The weavers he works with, don’t weave the fabrics in bulk. So the fabric, even before it is designed is unique.
The popular designer first sketches a piece, sticking to pencil and paper. “I adore drawing eyes and lips and bringing out expressions. Even when today’s world is all about computers and technology, I love using the pencil. After I am done sketching, I send it to my team and tell them to cut the fabric according to the lines I’ve drawn. Sometimes it happens that I have drawn a line by mistake – but that mistake, that imperfection, becomes a beautiful trait for that design, actually making it perfect.”
His upcoming collection, which will soon be unveiled is really close to his heart. Giving us an idea about what we can expect, he reveals, “There is a new collection coming up that is all about Indian women. They are age-old tribal fabrics for modern women. The collection will be a fusion of forgotten Indian fabrics and modern designs. I am looking forward to it…”
Sabyasachi’s favourite colour happens to be orange. On asking about how does he choose the colours of his fabrics and the factors that he keeps in mind while doing so, he replied, “I take all the colours of a season and use them in my designs. It also depends upon the skin colour of the person for whom I am designing the fabric for. Tribal fabrics from Odisha, like Sambalpuri, Sora, Dongria are very natural, with natural dyes. Natural dye does not have a lot of colour except in the case of Sambalpuri. All the others are dyed in earthy colours like brown, maroon or very light green. Now I’ve asked them to add more colours like a pure red or a proper orange! That is a fresh change.”
It is not just Sabyasachi’s work that is colourful, his life is even more vivid. He isn’t like the seasons that change constantly but he has had his share of low phases.
“If it all I write a book one day it will be a bestseller. I have been through a lot,” says Sabyasachi who loves eating Odia food cooked by his mom and adds, “When I feel blue, I will either cook a lot of food and call my friends over at home or do some gardening, sowing seeds. While sowing seeds I feel that if something as tiny as a seed can give birth to a whole plant, then as alive, energetic, blossoming humans we can do wonders! That inspires me to understand that feeling low is just a phase.”
He has some favourite quotes that keep him going, ‘Change is the only constant’ and ‘If nobody follows you, walk alone. If you are right you don’t have to look back, there will be millions behind you.’
There are tons and tons of fashion institutes in India with even more cropping up every other day. And so many people are pursuing a career in fashion. For the youngsters who are coping with the competition, stress and constant pressure to make it big, he had a golden piece of advice, “There are three things that they should never lose, creativity, positivity and dignity. Without these three things you would not be known as an original but a copy of someone else. Also, do not take shortcuts, be patient. Having dignity will help you gain respect and that respect will take you places.”
We often read the words ‘fashion’ and ‘style’ being used interchangeably. But there is a difference. Let’s heart it from the expert himself, “Styling is all about accessorizing and putting things together. You may buy a lot of things but how you put it together, is styling. Fashion is, to me, something that is comfortable, wearable, affordable and yet gives you dignity and grace.”
Who is his fashion icon – someone who’s style and fashion sense he truly admires?
“My first name would be Rekhaji. And my last name would also be Rekhaji (laughs). I would love to make something for her. She wears a lot of Kanchivaram and I’m sure she hasn’t tried sarees from Odisha. She carries herself so well! Nobody else can match her style.”
Actress Rekha is also one of his favourite actresses in Bollywood. He also loves to see Madhuri Dixit and Vidya Balan on screen. Although he doesn’t remember the names of many Hollywood actors but loves the grandeur in their movies, he likes actress Meryl Streep’s performance.
In male actors, Salman Khan is his most favourite, “No matter what good or bad people say for Salman Khan, I have immense respect for that person. Whenever he used to talk to me on Big Boss, my head would be bowed in respect. I truly admire the philanthropic work he does. He is a human, he is ‘Being Human’.” Sabyasachi also likes the acting of Kamal Haasan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan.
Sabyasachi who has many feathers in his hat took part in Big Boss’s Season 11. He is a fashion designer, an interior designer, a cook, he is into numerology, gardening, cooking and painting.
There are some memorable incidents, which he shares during the tête-à-tête,”I don’t think they have telecasted this on the show but it was when I was in the padosi house. I am talking about the first two days. I was the eldest there. When I used to hear, ‘Sabyasachi’ on the mike in that house – me being a big fan of Big Boss – that used to give me goosebumps. Another memorable moment was when Big Boss asked me why was I upset. I started crying when he asked me that. I felt ignored and alone and that is what made me cry.
But I felt blessed I was there in a place where millions wanted to be. The third incident was when I was leaving the house and Salman sir said to me,’You played the game with a lot of grace. I got to know today that there are people like you as well’. When I left for Bhubhaneshwar after the media interaction, I got a standing ovation at the airport. I was overwhelmed. People were patting my back – because I went through the storm silently without ever feeling the need to fight for TRPs.”
To Big Boss’ future participants, Sabyasachi, advises, “It is something I had said in my audition for the show that everyone wears a mask and with time, the real face of a person is revealed. So don’t wear a mask and be yourself. Take a stand. Don’t fight just for the cameras. You can have a silent march, you don’t have to waste your energy just for the sake of it. Kam log chahenge par log chahenge zaroor…Also, suddenly millions of people will start following you but then, as soon as there is a next season and another person, they will change like the seasons. So it’s better to be real. Ultimately, it is God and your parents’ blessing which will make you a celebrity.”
Sabyasachi has been designing for some film and TV stars. He is also designing for 6-7 politicians from different states for 6 months. For their wardrobe, he will be looking at the numerology of the politicians and make them wear the colours that suit them. He will also be making a day-wise colour schedule which helps them remain positive, patient and people’s persons.
With the introduction of GST and the change in the Indian economy, all of the industries have been affected and so is the fashion industry. Sabyasachi has an opinion to express, “We used to pay a lot of taxes, unknowingly. So in a way, GST has streamlined it all. But when the prices are hiked, the pay scales should hike as well, is what I feel. Because people should have a good life. But this is a phase – our country is going through a huge change and we should be more tolerant.”
If he were made the Prime Minister of India for a day, he would do two things for the fashion industry. Firstly, he would mandate the use of Indian fabrics – machine loom or handloom, “Nothing should be coming from outside. We are capable of creating magic,” he says.
Secondly, he would stop the exploitation of youngsters entering the fashion industry and introduce strict punishment. Even today, as a designer, he makes them feel comfortable, gives them hope and grooms them.
For India at large, he would introduce capital punishment for sexual offenders. He believes that it acts as a deterrent, “A lot of countries have created history by doing this. These rapists should get scared. We fear God more than loving him and that is what has made us believe in him completely. Same goes with the law. There has to be a strict punishment that deters future crimes. Capital punishment will have that effect. And once someone is punished in public, things will change drastically. We shouldn’t be tolerant here.”
He has some great plans from himself, a decade from now.
“I want to act in a couple of films that are arty and sincere. I see myself taking care of orphans, elders and HIV + people. My heart pains to see kids and senior citizens abandoned by their family. I would love to take care of them. Yes, that’s where I see myself. My last wish would be having the tricolour on my body,” he says.
Furthermore, Sabyasachi, who is fond of old songs and Italian films, adds, “Tomorrow when I am old and I look back I will not regret anything.”
On his travel plans, he comments, “I would love to go to Kashmir, North East, then Greece, Paris, Milan – all these places. I am supposed to go to California for a show. I love seeing new places and people.”
We asked him to define himself in one word. He had a simple yet impactful answer. He said, “Human. Only if you are human you can do anything in this world.”
Concluding the interview, he says, “There is no standard formula to success. My formula won’t be of use to you, yours won’t be of use to me. It comes from within. Work hard, stay focused. Don’t crib about the hard work that you have to do while chasing your dreams.”
His life is a cocktail. Like Sabyasachi, be the pied piper of your life!