“The sari,” said Puneet Nanda in Tokyo, “is a most elegant and amazing garment.”
Literally it is not a garment at all, but a length of material wrapped around the body in a basic style dating from antiquity. Simple though the sari seems to be, its wrapping and folding incorporate intricacies and subtleties. With bracelets, anklets and necklaces, the sari is undyingly popular with Indian women in all circumstances and for all occasions.
Nanda is a modern young man from New Delhi, red-sandstoned capital city of India. He was born into his family’s business of selling saris, “and grew into it.” His artist father, who established the brand label Satya Paul, took the boy to America for six of his teen years. That was a period during which he “trained in the arts without an agenda,” he said. “I was independent, a student of many arts, really. There was no milestone to say when I had arrived.”
As, eventually, he moved into active designing, Nanda’s interests broadened to include graphics and photography. Spending some time in Silicon Valley, he explored the possibilities of digital design. He met many American and European dress designers with styles that impressed him. He collected licenses to take their labels back with him and market them in India.
In India he saw a paradox. “We are steeped in tradition,” he said, “but modern life is upon us. India is culturally rich, but I thought there was a dearth of well-designed products. It was a predicament.” To realize his young ideas, he says, has been a struggle. “Habits and patterns of living cannot easily change. But Dad traveled a lot. He learned. His regular retail business supported and nourished our innovative artistic sense and direction.”
For the last four years, Nanda has applied himself to strengthening Satya Paul’s “global perspectives.” As director of design, eager and confident, he is one of three managers leading an impressive team. The Design Studio’s growth, he believes, springs from India’s rich cultural heritage combining the company’s connectedness to the real world.
Satya Paul’s in-house digital design studio employs more than 30 designers. More than 100 artisans take care of a printing unit that has a monthly capacity of over 100,000 meters of fabric, and equipment for screen and block printing, hand painting and airbrush technology.
Nanda understands the power of color. “It has emotive properties,” he said. “It is exciting. When we showed our collection at the Lakme India Fashion Week in 2002, it was hailed for its definitive command of color and print. Two years ago, in Tashkent and at an exclusive preview of Satya Paul collections for the Dubai royal family, our universality was applauded.” Nanda moves around the world with the collections, which have achieved, he says, “a global presence.”
The brand’s product line includes saris and Western dress and the fusion of both; scarves, stoles and accessories; and men’s neck wear dubbed “cultural ties.”
Nanda said, “We always move forward, whilst never ignoring the heritage that brought us as a people to where we are now.”
Last year, Satya Paul was named designer of the year by the Indian Academy of Art, Culture and Industries. The company provides wardrobes for the cinema, for popular televised programs and for pageants. Nanda has been coming for many years to Japan, and admires aesthetic sensibilities here. “We have an especially warm feeling for Japan,” he said. “We use calligraphic motifs, sumi, birds. For the ‘Wings of Love’ charity dinner we brought creations which are in keeping with the theme.”
Focusing on Asia, “Wings of Love” was based on the theme of the Silk Road, which made possible the flow between countries of religion, philosophy, arts and crafts. On the initiative of Taj Enterprise, the charity dinner enlisted support from many quarters, including Satya Paul, to benefit various conservation projects.
Miss India came to the event, introducing to it a glittering silver outfit designed by Nanda. He is proud of it. “It is a trouser sari,” he said. “It looks like a sari, but is easy to put on and wear.” Nanda calls it “synergistic and stylistic.”
He produced too an accessory designed especially for today’s young woman of every nationality who wears jeans and a T-shirt. The accessory is a long, studded sleeve that recalls a chain-mail medieval gauntlet. Nanda says it has equal appeal to a fashion belt, and costs about the same.
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