“Maku looks at our everyday cultural milieu with a fresh pair of eyes”
One of the reasons I picked Santanu Das’ Maku as a designer to look out for is because when I first returned to India, one of my biggest inspirations was a woman called Asha Sarabhai. She was a designer who used to make wonderful products in India as well as create beautiful clothes for the Miyake Design Studio in Japan. The big revelation for me, having grown up in India before the big fashion revolution took place, was to be able to take Indian handloom fabric and design garments really beautifully with an exquisite finish using only local craft techniques, whether it was pintucking or the kangri jali detail. Her clothes were available in India for a very brief period of time. Several years later, when I saw Maku’s line, I felt it had the same sensibility but interpreted in a completely individual way. Santanu Das’ label uses a lot of Bengal cotton and jamdani. He makes extremely contemporary garments that are well finished, elegant and comfortable and not exorbitantly priced, all of which are key factors I look for in a gen-next designer.
Even as I say that Maku reminds me of Sarabhai, it is still a very distinctly different aesthetic. Both Sarabhai and Das have distinct points of view. Das has a very original stake on fashion. Similarly, when Pero burst on to the scene eight years ago, the label took very local, everyday things and presented them so beautifully. That is what made it special. Maku looks at our everyday cultural milieu with a fresh pair of eyes and then comes up with a unique vocabulary that has always existed but is still new and exciting.
While I think its lovely that gen-next designers are doing novel things with handloom, I don’t think it’s a necessary prerequisite to use strictly Indian fabrics. Payal Khandwala, for instance, is doing a crushed cape which is not a local fabric. She simply found an interesting fabric and shaped it differently. So, essentially, it’s all about an idea and how you execute it.
I wear Maku a lot and some of my favourite pieces are a jamdani creation, a simple, long white pintucked kurta. I also love his Indigo collection which has some really charming sarees that have a voice of their own and really stand out.