"Simplicity with global reach" is Sonam Dubal's watchwords. A chat with the designer during his Chennai visit
Model Malavika Tiwari in a Sonam Dubal creation.
Casual white shirt, tiny ponytail, backpack and an air of nonchalance... All these complete the picture of a relaxed tourist. But Sonam Dubal, though an avid traveller, is not in Chin-nai to sightsee. Instead, he is here to soft-launch his latest line of designer wear at Amethyst, Gopalapuram.
Part Maharashtrian, part Sikkimese Tibetan, this Delhi-based designer has over the seasons evolved a vocabulary that is eclectic yet restrained. "Yes, there are diverse cultural threads running through my works," says Sonam as he unwinds at the café in Amethyst. "Thanks to my mixed cultural background, I have access to a variety of traditions. In essence, my label `Sanskar' is a combination of Indian and Oriental influences that come together in Pan-Asian styles."
With an amiable smile he continues, "I've seen the mountains, I've seen the sea. They were all part of my cultural ethos." Yes, a close look at Sonam's clothes reflects the mystique of the mountains and the fluidity of the sea. "The monasteries of the Eastern Himalayas were a major influence as was the sea during my Maharashtra sojourn."
Someone who can successfully walk the tightrope between utility and chic, Sonam joins the band of designers who foster fashion's current retro trend. The result, he has revived centuries-old styles like "bakhu" (kind of a wrap-around skirt) and others for women who prefer smartly edited vintage that's wearable. As for embellishments, "I like my embroidery to look like patterned weaves," he says pointing out to a black top with subtle workmanship. "I need to have control over aesthetics, otherwise it might result in visual overdrive," he adds.
Sonam's line of separates wrap skirts, tops, flap pyjamas and sherwanis come with silk-stitched stripes, subtle resham with mirrors, gold zardosi, quilted touches, block prints and even hand embroidery encrusted with "old coins from his personal collection." There are tops with motifs drawn from the Cambodian tradition as well. "There are a few pieces that are a spin-off from my Tibetan calligraphy-inspired line for the Lakme India Fashion Week and some creations (tops) in which I've incorporated the Bodhi leaf as a print in gold to add a spiritual dimension."
As for the fabrics, Sonam goes for time-proven silks and is also involved in nurturing the centuries old Tibetan "Burrey" which has a mutka silk feel about it. A wardrobe crusader, the designer also believes in recycling old silks with a brand new exterior!
Having graduated from the NIFT in 1990, Sonam trained under ace designer Rohit Khosla for several seasons. He was one of New Delhi's best-kept sartorial secrets till he launched his own label "Sanskar." Besides getting rave reviews at the Lakme India Fashion Week, he hogged the spotlight at the Singapore Fashion Festival in 2002, where he was one of the five Indian designers chosen to showcase their labels. "My LIFW collection was instantly picked up by L'Eclaireur, Paris, which is a global trend-setter. And I also display my lines at Tashi, London," he beams.
"The fact is that the East is distinct for its design sensibilities. But only now is there a sudden awakening to all things from this part of the earth. So I'd like to combine simplicity with global reach."
And now, who said global branding deprives us of exciting ethnic cultural influences?
T. KRITHIKA REDDY
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