Sharbari Datta is the daughter
of celebrated Bengali poet Ajit Datta, known for his literary
innovations in the post-Rabindranath era. She grew up to the rhythms
of poetry on the one hand and dance and music on the other, imbibing
the essence of culture deeply.
Sharbari shone at singing and dancing and hence often found herself
in the lead role of dance dramas in her student days. Academics
took up a lot of her time-she did her graduation from Presidency
College and took her Master's Degree in Philosophy from Calcutta
University. Yet, arts remained an enduring love.
It was a bleak world of stripes and checks that Sharbari gate
crashed into. A drab world, where the most daring sartorial adventure
man could imagine was silk tie that has, over the years, managed
to shift from diagonal bands to paisleys and floral motifs. Or
a dhoti with a border and a kurta with modest embroidery at the
neck and shoulders.
No wonder Sharbari’s men’s wear thundered into the
fashion landscape. It was like an irresistible gust of wind that
blows away age-old notions of can and can’t and left everybody
breathless. Older men did a double take, trapped in their inhibitions.
But the younger ones, mindful of the mirror and the new glint
in the eyes of their woman, took to Sharbari with zeal of the
new convert. They were followed by the older generations; who
were slower to shed conventions but have been no less steady in
their patronage of Sharbari’s.
We speak of zeal and converts though, of course, Sharbari’s
isn’t a religion, only a much talked-about designer label
and Sharbari in no high priestess but only the woman designer
exploring the distinctive line of men’s wear. However, she
has always a philosophy of fashion.
“I pitied men their dull wardrobes. The west has enslaved
us to notions of masculine dress codes which, we forget, have
only a short history, dating after the Industrial Revolution.”
It has done something else, too. It had tutored Indian men to
turn away from their own rich dress heritage. Indian’s,
both men and women, were fond of dressing up, “from Mohenjodaro
to the Mughals“ she says, and never tires of pointing out
that sartorial flair wasn’t confined to aristocratic finery,
Sherwani, Angrakha, Piran, Bandhgala, Kurtas…
The ingenious weaves and colours and cuts of folk costumes offer
breathtaking variety, too.
Sharbari believes fashion trends move both in a linear direction
and in a circular manner, earlier codes get resurrected as new
long after they died out. The elaborate styles of a bygone age
of leisure and pleasure are coming back with a vengeance. As a
woman, Sharbari welcomes the changes of tastes. After all, women
have eyes, too. As a designer she should feel a sense of satisfaction,
for isn’t she more than a little responsible for this new
awareness about the new look of menswear? She’s been able
to do what she wanted.
creation truly exclusive : the designer draws
directly on cloth, impromptu, without prelims, preserving no copy
for afterwards, so that repetition is impossible. Her specially
trained seamsters then weave her freehand strokes into intricate
embroidery. Her creation is unique because Sharbari’s idiom
is an inventive fusion of different art traditions, and evolved
into an elegant expression distinctly her own. Cave and folk art;
Egyptian mural; calligraphy of West and East Asia; still life;
Pop art and Picasso; miniatures; Hindu Mythology are sources of
inspiration, not copied, but recalled and re-invented with insouciant
artistry so that their traditional identities are not lost in
As if in natural succession, she ventured into male accessory
designing and in a show sponsored by World Gold Council, she showcased
her range of exquisite jewellery for men, breaking all pre-defined
notions about machismo and redefining the Millennium Man.
To break the myth that ‘Diamonds are a Woman’s best
friend’ Sharbari has recently launched a range of diamond
accessories for men.
For a woman who has always aspired to give a voice that desire
of a man, which has forever been suppressed by the inhibitions
inflicted by the society, the journey has just begun.