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Revisiting Sabyasachi x H&M

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The celebrated Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee, famous for his jaw-dropping lehengas, was lately in the highlights for launching his much-hyped Sabyasachi x H&M collection. Irrespective of the frenzy and excitement for his new collection “Wanderlust,” the designer received backlashes for designing a basic clothing line and collaborating with a fast-fashion chain H&M. 

Sabyasachi is a luxury label that advocates slow and sustainable fashion, whereas H&M is a fast-fashion conglomerate infamous for its unsustainable and unethical practices. Their alliance was condemned by many, and it even led to the cancel culture. Indeed, the collection was simple. However, the Sabyasachi x H&M collaboration was not as terrible that it deserved ostracisation, trolls, and criticisms.

A partnership between a luxury brand and a fast-fashion brand is not something new. The entire fashion industry thrives on such collaborations. With the growing demand for newness from the customers, collaborations are one of the feasible strategies to match the ever-growing customer needs. They improve brand identity, sales and make the product accessible to a broader customer demographic, enhancing cultural exchange.

Sabyasachi, too, wanted to make his products available to the masses. Moreover, considering how expensive Sabyasachi products are, there could have been no better way than partnering up with a global fast-fashion brand like H&M to make them available to most people at lower prices. 

Yes, the artisans and craftsmen were dismayed on not being a part of this collaboration. In that regard, they also wrote an open letter to Sabyasachi, wherein they pointed out how their involvement could have benefitted the struggling artisans. And how the artisans who were the proprietors of the Sanganeri block print used in the collection did not receive any compensation.  The designer, in response, stated that “the artisanal work was meant for luxury and not high street fashion.” He also pointed out that “the print used in the collection was not a mere replication but a hybrid of Sanganeri Block print aesthetic.”

In all honesty,  there is nothing wrong with Sabyasachi choosing to grow and trying out new avenues. As long as he is coming clean about his course of action (which he did by giving an explanation) we should not be pointing our fingers at him for the collaboration. Besides, from a business point of view, the Sabyasachi x H&M collaboration has not only increased Sabyasachi’s brand value but has also helped Indian Designs gain international recognition. 

Thus, instead of tearing down the designer, we should celebrate Sabyasachi Mukherjee for becoming the first Indian designer to join the splendid list of H&M’s collaborations, which includes luxury brands such as Balmain, Moschino, and Karl Lagerfeld. 

Inasmuch as H&M is concerned, it seems convenient for us to point fingers at it since the brand already holds a bad reputation for its unfair activities. But to be fair, we do not know how ethical and sustainable other brands are. The least we can do is appreciate H&M for publishing its sustainability performance report wherein it mentions its future goals and yearly initiatives towards becoming sustainable.

Speaking of sustainable fashion, all we do is just talk vaguely about this issues than actually implementing it in our lives. We essentially criticise fast fashion brands for their unsustainable methods, yet run back to them when in need of fresh, trendy, and inexpensive clothes. Even the rise in conversations about sustainable and ethical fashion post the Sabyasachi x H&M collaboration seems more like a trend that may perhaps die with time since we are not doing anything substantial to implement it in our lives. 

Sustainability, truly, begins with us. Before calling the designers and fashion brands out for their unsustainable and unethical ways, let us first change our attitudes towards fashion. Rather than looking for newness every three to four months, let us adopt sustainable and ethical practices such as mindful shopping, buying trans-seasonal clothes, donating old and unwanted clothes and buying rental or pre-loved garments to demonstrate a positive change towards a sustainable future. When the brands see that change in customer behaviours, they will incorporate the same in their working models.

Let us practice and then preach?

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