Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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In Fashion...Mumbai inspires Hemant Sagar

About a decade ago, I met Indian designer Hemant Sagar amid French couture and culture in Paris. It was spring, and his atelier was not far from the gently flowing River Seine or the 14th century classic Gothic architecture of Notre Dame. Over lunch with him and his attractive Italian assistant, Valentina Rossi, I learnt that he was the only Indian to be part of the exclusive, even snobbish, Parisian club of Haute Couture that had just about 15 designers as members.

Sagar was trained in Germany and at Paris' Ecoles de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, the only school in the world that is said to teach the unique craft of haute couture, which, literally translated, means "high sewing". It is here that he met his design partner, Didier Lecoanet. The rest, we know.

Lecoanet stands for liberty, and luxury; and Hemant, humour, and "habit," the French word for dress. The two alphabets – L and H-- on their logo reflect heady optimism.

Together they have dressed up Texan millionaires, Arab Princes and Hollywood stars. When they got a little tired of rich tantrum, they shifted their attention to Mattel’s Barbie Doll. The little lady got three Lecoanet Hemant dresses in as many years. And boy, was she not thrilled. Indeed. This is what Lecoanet Hemant aspire: joy through style.

And in 2003, they came to India to dress up New Delhi’s rich and famous and beautiful. The design-duo’s clothes were sold out in no time. Hemant, whose mother is German and father Indian, says they have no plans to Indianise their patterns. "We will, for instance, never do ethnic wear. Besides, we believe in evolution in fashion and not historical reproductions," he adds.

Their latest collection for 2008 has been inspired by Mumbai! Hemant says: “It was when travelling to the Miami Beach earlier this year that I was strangely reminded of Bombay ... the Art Deco buildings and monuments they call Tropical Deco there were very similar to the building style we call Bombay Deco. This introductory collection for monsoon and summer 2008, entirely dreamt, thought and made in India is dedicated to and inspired by this beautiful style, and Lecoanet Hemant thus salute Bombay with a 'Grand Bonjour'. “

Sharp and angular lines assert their geometry by contrasting curves ... the silver mosaics seen on Mumbai’s Marine Drive have become metallic mesh, framed by patent leather to become a sleek top, buckled on bare skin with chrome ... sensuous dresses in gun metal lame reflect monsoon clouds and find themselves veiled by a shawl of 'seamiest' ... in silk georgette ... and tight body hugging tops are not sure whether they are shirts or jackets ... that's the tropics!

With a full line of fashion, including women’s and men's garments as well as accessories, the designers introduced their collection to India for the first time at the recent Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai. The traditional Indian silk was given a contemporary occidental twist, reminiscent of a sari at second degree. This progressive urban collection is India International, and was entirely dreamt, thought of, nurtured and finally executed in the country. The collection has been designed with the vibrant and colourful undercurrent of Mumbai in mind. The very spirit of the city during its fiery monsoons comes alive in the clothes. Hello Mumbai, the two men seem to be smiling.

(Webposted October 31 2007)