The Smell of Sabyasachi

From celebrities to everyday brides, South Asians all over the world are paying thousands to buy the designer’s creations. What makes it worth it?

Michaela Stone Cross

August 26, 2019

The Smell of Sabyasachi
Sabyasachi's lehengas are popular wedding wear. (Mehar Sindhu Batra)

Prachi Gupta Badigar was wedding dress shopping when her eyes fell upon a certain lehenga, the traditional wedding outfit of the north Indian bride. The piece was beautiful, but both she and her mother agreed that it would suit her better in brown. 

“Can I get this in a coffee instead?” she asked. The staff exchanged glances. Ordinarily, they weren’t allowed to make adjustments to the design. She waited anxiously while they texted a private WhatsApp group for permission. 

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, they’re even considering customizing something!’” said Badigar.

Badigar had the money to walk into the stores of many a celebrity designer. So what made her nervous about asking for a color adjustment?

Why, Sabyasachi of course.

You could say Sabyasachi Mukherjee is one of India’s top designers. You could also say the sun is hot. His brand, according to Business of Fashion, is expected to make $30 million in sales in 2019 and is growing 30% year over year. Celebrities from Deepika Padukone to Bipasha Basu to Anushka Sharma to Priyanka Chopra have worn his creations for their special day. Others who are yet to marry, including Katrina Kaif and Alia Bhatt constantly feature on his Instagram. Sabyasachi is known for bringing the traditions of Indian textiles to the West. 

But Sabyasachi’s rise wasn’t always a given. Sabyasachi entered the international spotlight in 2006 with his collection for New York Fashion Week, which he didn’t consider much of a success at the time. Born to a middle-class Bengali family in 1974, Sabya ignored the wishes of his parents and self-financed his way through the National Institute of Fashion Technology, from which he graduated in 1999. Later, he won a scholarship to intern with London-based textile designer Georgina von Etzdorf. His rise since then has been astronomic — only eight years after graduating, he was receiving positive reviews in the New York Times.