Ahead of the launch of Manish Saksena for The Registry of Sarees, the designer spoke to us about fashion hits, keeping traditions alive in fashion, and the secrets to lasting style.
Manish Saksena is a man of impeccable taste. If you’ve ever wondered what has gone on behind the scenes in defining Indian retail fashion, meeting Manish gives you a sense of how steep the learning curve of growing style in India has been.
Manish has strong roots in St. Stephens College, New Delhi and London School of Fashion, and he has worked in different genres and scopes with Madura Garments as Creative Director, with Landmark Group as Head of Buying and successfully launched the first organized ethnic wear brand W. Teaching at NIFT and imparting knowledge gained from the Industry to the GenNext has been his passion and purpose alongside. From leading the growth, expansion and profitability of the iconic brand Tommy Hilfiger in India for 6 years as COO for its India operations and thereon as a consultant till date, he made his foray into the ecommerce environment with LimeRoad.com while also pursuing his passion to design and sell sarees to the discerning.
When you are introduced to a Manish Saksena Kanjeevaram saree., you enter a realm where few have had the courage to venture. Classic western patterns like the hounds-tooth made so iconic by the Chanel jacket easily dance with traditional Kanjeevaram’s peacocks. Their bold patterns are superseded only by the strength of Manish’s understanding of color.
We asked him what his earliest memories were:
Manish’s mother Kokila, an Economics Professor at Delhi University was an avid saree collector. The saree is an Indian teacher’s manner of asserting not only her firm grip on her class but also her tool with which to charm her students. As a child in the 1980’s Manish accompanied his mother on many a saree shopping expedition. In search of the perfect weave from Government Emporiums and craft and textile fairs, Manish recalls committing to memory, subtle changes in color, pattern and form often from the same weaver over several years. These reflections molded his ability to judge and discriminate style for different retail functions in the future. Textiles in India, far more than any other personal object reflect social and economic backgrounds, preferences, histories of both the weaver and wearer and even on occasion capture history. These would all come to hold Manish in good stead when the time came to bring a Kanjeevaram back into the boardroom.
Given that urban India enjoys a liberal movement of people across cities, there is a strong cross-cultural influence on our weaves. There is a risk of losing the purist form as customers demand bold patterns instead of intricate weaves. Manish’s work with Kanjeevaram sarees bridge this deep divide – they marry the contemporary with the traditional in the most harmonious possible way, bringing to the forefront his own exemplary taste.
Manish believes that “It is critical that contemporary designers continue to engage with traditional art forms so that they continue to thrive. The weavers and craftsmen find newer and exciting ways to harness their crafts and at the same time the consumer interest is maintained & encouraged. Consumers tend to sway easily and it is our responsibility to manipulate trends and market the crafts such that the new and the old coexist harmoniously. This balance between the old & the new is most exciting in a saree specially where the form itself is getting relegated due to its older connotations. Attitudinally the saree being seen as a preference of a traditional women is a mindset that is interesting to fight out with every collection and seeing women rediscover their love all over again without any biases.”
All Manish’s sarees share the same philosophy as him. They nurture a haute level of quality that encourages weavers to produce quality products at fair prices. The sarees encourage design stimulation between urban and rural interpretations within the same product. These sarees force us to think of ways to embrace both our roots and champion the crafts people without losing our passion for modern living.
Other craft interventions that Manish has specifically worked in include Yeola, Maheshwar and Kota. But it is the queen of silks, the Kanjeevaram that truly portrays his vision of India as we live in it. A practitioner of the classical form who clearly believes in people who do what they do, be it the weaver or the saree enthusiast. As definitions go – these are those that will stand the test of time!
Manish's discerning Kanjeevaram sarees are available here: https://the-registry-of-sarees.myshopify.com/collections/manish-saksena-for-the-registry-of-sarees