Suket Dhir: Traditional Indian Fashion for the Global Scene

Suket Dhir, made and designed in India proudly, but crafted with the world stage in mind.

The fashion designer who won the most prestigious award in the fashion industry in 2016 by winning the International Woolmark Prize. WEARME.FASHION met the designer and discussed in more detail his experiences in the global context a year after a year of having won his award, and the inspiration for his newest menswear collection AW 17/18, which was presented at White Show Milano for the first time.

Remarking about his journey through the past year “everything has changed” said Mr. Dhir. “From the international exposure to the many beautiful people I’ve met during the past year, so many people from the industry like Linda Loppa and Suzy Menkes, who have amazing insight about what is happening, the appreciation coming from them was a huge boost to my confidence, it made me believe more in myself. I feel I can dream anything and achieve it.” (sic)

There is no doubt that many things have changed since the award. Suket Dhir, 38, who was born in India, has been called by Vogue “the global fashion superstar in the making” and “India’s rising fashion star” by the New York Times. He certainly is one of the newest faces in the fashion industry, and nobody can deny it. During the past year, he has been selling his collection to different department stores around the world, and gaining more renown in the fashion industry.

The International Woolmark Prize, which took place in Florence last year, was the award first won by greats Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent all the way back in 1954. It is one of the most desired and prestigious prizes in fashion design, coveted by designers worldwide. Last year, Suket Dhir was competing with designers from all over the world when he received the pleasantly surprising news of being nominated and as Mr. Dhir recalls, it was a “pleasant shock, more than a surprise” and remembered, “I was never ready for the competition, but once the invitation came, I gave it my all. It’s actually like that, when an opportunity presents itself, it’s how hard you try to grab this opportunity! I think the life (fashion design) is exactly about that.” (sic)

Certainly, in the life of a designer, multiple challenges and opportunities can present themselves at any moment, like in the lives of famous designers such as Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang who began their careers at a very young age, have won many awards, and whose direction and ambition have taken them to become the creative directors of major fashion brands, with worldwide recognition of their names and skills. Mr. Dhir, who started his career as a designer in his 20s, told us “I think all ages are good to become a fashion designer. I know people who started their career at the age of 50-55. I believe a lot in energies, there is always a right time, a right place, and in those times, age is not a factor. Although the sooner it happens, the better it is, the more you can do, the more you can give. However, it depends on personal capacities and some people even do and give more in a shorter span of time.” (sic)

And right now is the right time and place for Suket Dhir, who, inspired by India’s traditions and beliefs, aims to share with the world more than just clothes, but also a cultural message. “There is a saying in India: the whole world is one family. We have our own thought processes, different belief systems you can always agree or disagree, but at the same time, we all have to live together, there might be some differences, but the world nowadays needs to be more open and receive what the whole world has to offer to each other. Have your eyes and ears open to the good that is happening in the world. Because everybody is talking about what’s wrong that is happening, what bad is happening in the world. But in the world of fashion, in the world of art, culture, dance and music, you need a lot of positive things, because that’s what feeds the soul and that’s what makes one happy. That’s what makes a person want to live life in the fullest. If you just focus on the wrong things, that’s what makes you more and more sad. I think focus has to be on the good things that are happening. That’s why I like to focus on the lightest side of life, and that’s what my clothes are about. If you see the clothes from inside, there is a lot of fun happening there, in the small little details. The (fashion) life is about the small little details that make you happy, small things that make you happy every day.” (sic)

When we took a look at his collection, we could feel his optimistic energy and enthusiasm transmitted through every special detail in the clothing, through the combinations of Indian cultural influence and modern fashion and lifestyle, details that make his collection stand out from the collections of other designers. “I like to pick on things that people around the world can relate to, so we have taken the traditional Indian miniature paintings for this collection, a very core Indian craft, and we have given it a twist, like if this painting were done in a modern context. In India, we had our own kings, and our own royals, so we sort of reimagined them in the modern lifestyle, like playing golf or riding on Segways. That’s a little humorous and fun way to look at it. So you can actually see the traditional Indian art work in what we have done, but the re-imagination is something that is very global, for example golf, the whole world knows about golf.” (sic)

Following a unique concept, Suket Dhir FW17/18 collection embraces the equilibrium between that which is manmade, and technology. “We tried to create a balance between hand crafting and technology, so we used a lot of traditional techniques like hand stitching, embroiders techniques, traditional block printing, combining (these) with very modern technology to create man made fabrics, cashmeres, and silks. At the same time, we use fabrics that are being made by hand”.

And all of these details are exactly what differentiate Suket Dhir from other Indian designers, as well as other designers from all over the world. We are very sure we will hear a lot from Mr. Dhir in the near future!

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