Master of drapes

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A few designers decode Satya Paul’s legacy and influence in fashion, writes Anjuly Mathai in The Week, published in the January 24, 2021 edition.


Satya Paul, illustrationTo be creative means to be in love with life,” Osho once said. “You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” Osho might well have been describing a loyal follower’s creations. A Satya Paul sari encompassed all of this – poetry, beauty, music, dance…. His saris were conceptually strong, technically sound and imaginatively rich. But what elevated them was something else, that elusive quality that Paul himself was seeking all his life. His saris had soul.

Paul, who died on January 6 at the age of 79, was born in Leigha, Pakistan, and came to India during the Partition. He is credited with starting L’Affaire, India’s first sari boutique, in 1980. His spirituality spurred his creativity. In fact, it was upon his return from the Osho commune in Oregon – where he had gone with his family in 1982, after selling his export business – that he entered a phase of unbridled creativity. Subsequently, he launched his brand in 1985. He viewed life as a playground of ideas, and was inspired by everything from Japanese calligraphy, Picasso paintings and the Ramayan to Disney films and Calvin and Hobbes comic strips….

He was the first designer to introduce choreographed collections in India. Each of his collections, whether it was the Museum, the Rainbow, or the Signature Collection, was thematic and told a story. He was also one of the first to design concept saris. Much before Masaba Gupta or Monisha Jaising, Paul introduced sari dresses, dhoti-style saris and sari gowns into the fashion landscape. International runway model Poonam Nath, who has modelled for the brand, says that the way his drapes fall is impeccable. “His saris felt like second skin to me, they draped so beautifully, and were always an eye-catcher,” she says. “I own a multi-toned green, tie and dye masterpiece by Satya Paul. I can run, jump and dance in it, and I do.”

There was a sense of liberation in his saris, with their polka dots and their post-modernism. I consider him the Andy Warhol of saris.
Gaurav Gupta, designer

But in the end, his spirituality overrode everything else. He gave up his design empire in 2010 and became a life-long disciple of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, ultimately breathing his last at the Isha Yoga Centre in Coimbatore. He was a seeker all his life, and he mined art to find what he sought from the cosmos.

Continue reading:

Illustration Satya Paul: Job P.K.
Quote by Osho from Eighty Four Thousand Poems, Ch 23 (unpublished)

Anjuly Mathai

Anjuly Mathai, a senior correspondent, covers health and society stories. She also writes a fortnightly column called Love Actually.

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