Indulge one-on-one: On a fashion trail with Sidney Sladen and Shvetha Jaishankar
Sidney Sladen and Shvetha Jaishankar, both forces to be reckoned with in the fashion world, come together in an exciting conversation about food, the industry and everything in between
If you’re one among the several people currently succumbing to obsessively checking out Chennai’s fashion circuit on Instagram, know that you have Sidney Sladen and Shvetha Jaishankar to thank for it. The pair really needs no introduction. Sidney’s winning charm and eponymous fashion label is a longtime cult favourite, while Shvetha has been successful in putting Chennai on the map for a few decades now, by being a successful model, author and entrepreneur. Her latest book, Gorgeous: Eat Well, Look Good is also one for your shelves. Their connection is one that spans over a decade, and has been a constant through thick and thin, so it seems only fitting that now — after countless catwalks, photoshoots, parties and supermodel friendships later, the two reunited to celebrate 11 years of Indulge.
To mark the occasion, we get Sidney and Shvetha get on a phone call, which brought back some bittersweet memories for the pair. “I was just going through an old hard drive a week ago, and found all our leather show pictures!” Sidney began, leaving Shvetha very excited. “Share them with me! You were always so well organised,” she reminisces, as the conversation gently trails deeper into the past.
Back to basics
It is something not too many of us know, but Sidney began his journey into the fashion world as a backstage coordinator for over two years, under the tutelage of choreographer and activist Sunil Menon. “I used to design in school, and you’d often find me being punished in school for drawing in the back pages of my notebooks,” he says, with a laugh. He forayed into design gradually, by initially designing for his sister and her friends. With retail stores in Chennai, Hyderabad, Colombo, Coimbatore, Zurich and Malaysia, it is safe to say that Sidney has come a long way from there. He has worked on
several films including Chandramukhi (2005), Nenjil Jil Jil (2006) and Silambattam (2008), and is also taking up interior design projects. “Decorating a home is very similar to how you dress a person. I’m quite clueless about the construction aspect of it, but it’s more about developing colour palettes and creating an aesthetic, and skilful execution,” Sidney says, as he talks about finding his grounding in more than just the fashion industry. This also seems to be a growing trend with fashion designers globally, with bigwigs like Manish Malhotra, Maison Moschino and Jean-Paul Gaultier setting up furniture houses and interior design spaces.
Shvetha chimes in with several roles she has taken up — that of a state-level tennis player, (word on the street is that her parents initially wanted to take the sport up professionally!) a bharatanatyam dancer, model, an author, entrepreneur, beauty pageant titleholder and a mother of two daughters. “Every role I have taken up seems to have seamlessly aided me in the next. My training as a dancer taught me not to have stage fright as a model,” she remembers. So which is closest to her heart? “Every hat I have donned has a special place in my heart, and all of them help me be a better mother,” she says, with a smile.
A self-professed workaholic, Sidney claims that his job has definitely not gotten easier with time. “Well, it’s far to say that no job is easy, and I come to work at 8.30 am and wrap up by 10 pm. The grind goes on, and I actually envy people with 9-5 jobs!” he laughs, and is joined in with Shvetha who loves the friendships and the warmth that the fashion community fosters. “I’ve noticed that there is a strong bonding within the workspace. Perhaps it’s because of the nature of the work, but it’s quite unique to the industry,” she opines, asserting on the sheer amount of hard work that is involved. “It’s very easy to lose perspective on your looks, and it certainly doesn’t help to deny yourself the comforts of rest and food.”
Over the last few years, the fashion industry in the country has seen a mini awakening of sorts, with a huge influx of new designers and styles. Sidney, a regular at fashion shows and openings, weighs in on the subject. “While it’s lovely to see new talent, a trend I’ve noticed is that most of them open and then close almost immediately,” he avers. “I feel like a lot of them get into it because of the glam factor, movie stars and partying. We got into it because we like clothes, and the additional perks were only a part of it.”
Sidney has the same pressing questions we all seem to have, which is to find out what the model eats to stay so fit. Interestingly, she hasn’t cut out carbs from her diet and prefers consuming them at dinner, rather than during the day at lunch. “It’s much better because you go to bed feeling full, rather than hungry with a light soup and salad.” It is also interesting to note that a lot of seemingly healthy, everyday foods also have carb content, albeit not too high. These include millets and dals as well. “I go for good quality over extreme variety in my pantry, which means that all of it is organic and ethically sourced,” she informs. Looking for the perfect pre-workout snack? Find some nuts or a boiled egg! Luckily for us, her book also discusses similar subjects.