Can India's Favorite Bridalwear Designer Make an H&M Collection That Lasts Forever?

As a fashion lover who has been fusing aspects of my Indian culture with my western wear as long as I can remember, the Sabyasachi x H&M collaboration is a dream. Not only is this the first time H&M has collaborated with an Indian designer in its 17 years of collaborations, it's with none other than world-renowned Sabyasachi Mukherjee — arguably the globe's most coveted Indian bridalwear designer.

For years I've pined for a Sabyasachi piece. Oh, what I would have done to have him design my bridal trousseau like he did for stars Deepika Padukone or Priyanka Chopra Jonas! To now see a flowing Sabyasachi creation hanging in my closet feels pretty exhilarating, yet amidst the excitement my conscious is still torn.

Over the last several years I have been diligent in my dedication to move away from fast fashion. And, despite my excitement to finally wear and support a designer I love, I worried whether I was abandoning this goal by shopping this collection. But the truth is that these designer collaborations often serve as a bridge for those looking to embrace more sustainable style, and H&M has already put sustainability into focus.

According to Ella Soccorsi, Concept Designer at Collaborations & Special collections, H&M, the company has set high goals for itself. By 2023 all materials should be recycled or be more sustainably sourced, with the aim for H&M to be fully circular, closing the loop on fashion.

With this collection in particular, there are several aspects which support sustainability, starting with design concept. A lot of effort went into creating a classic collection that can be styled multiple ways, and almost all production was kept in India to ensure minimal back and forth of samples throughout the entire process.

There's also another important factor to consider here: emotional durability, aka making clothes that will be cherished and worn for a long time. 

"The prints are made by the Sabyasachi Art Foundation, adding to the emotional value of the garments," Soccorsi says. "Our leather products will last longer and become more beautiful with age because of the pull up effect, and all the cotton is in BCI cotton. We have also tried to ensure that the designs are circular and that garments could either be repaired or recycled in an easier way by not blending fibers in our fabrics."

For Mukherjee himself, it's important to evaluate the fashion industry holistically when talking about sustainability.

"From designers and manufacturers to consumers, the onus really is on all of us to change," he says. "Designers need to make pieces whose relevance extend beyond one season, manufacturers need to source ethically and operate in an environmentally friendly way, and consumers need to pivot consumption towards quality as opposed to quantity. We did our best from the beginning to ensure that our H&M collaboration fits within this holistic framework of sustainability and versatility."

While the pandemic delayed the release of Sabyasachi x H&M more than once, now that the Wanderlust collection — with its nods to athleisure and glamping — has arrived, the theme has taken on a different meaning, reframing what it means to be transported.

"The pandemic taught us how to travel without leaving our homes" Mukherjee tells me. "My hope with this collection is that it provides the homebody with the same sense of wanderlust and wonderment that it provides the world traveler."

The limited-edition launch offers a full range of products from accessories and jewelry to footwear, sunglasses, and ready-to-wear glamourous loungewear. It also includes H&M's first sari, something Mukherjee is especially proud of.  

Spending the past 20 years dressing over 50,000 brides (and some of their grooms), Mukherjee has created custom couture for India's elite, Bollywood, and Hollywood royalty, and his fame only continues to rise. But there is still one star he'd love to see in one of his creations. 

"She is not a Hollywood celebrity per se, but she is a force nonetheless: Amanda Gorman. She's an inspired poet, artist, and activist. I view her and her peers as the new generation of leaders — those who align themselves and their art with social progress. I'd be honored to see her in one of my creations." 

From interviewing Mukherjee to finally stepping out in my first Sabyasachi x H&M piece, what's captured me is the measured commitment to both Mother Earth and Mother India in this collection. Mukherjee's hope is that not only will this collection provoke many young customers towards art and craft, but also towards slower and more mindful consumption.

"I am very heritage proud, and I hope a little bit of that pride of Indian heritage gets extended to the Indian audience and leaves the western audience with a sense of wonderment to discover more. Hopefully these clothes will become wardrobe staples in a lot of peoples' lives for years to come," Mukherjee says.

It's exciting to see that Mukherjee himself is just as excited as we, his Indian fans, are.

"This collaboration with H&M means so much to me personally, and to my brand. I've always dreamt of creating collections that are accessible to the masses, but still Indian, and still Sabyasachi. Working with H&M allows my aesthetic to reach new customers and tell the story of a contemporary India that many around the world have not yet experienced. We are not only a land of fuchsia pinks, elephants, and peacocks. We have a strong contemporary clothing culture that often draws from our rich history of textiles. This is the India that I am excited to promote via Wanderlust with H&M."

And this is the India and the Sabyasachi I can feel good about wearing, too.

The Sabyasachi x H&M collection is available to shop now in selected H&M stores and on HM.com.

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