Chennai designer Sidney Sladen talks about his new collection and why he is not a fan of sustainability
Sidney Sladen isn’t excited about digital fashion shows. And that he would prefer something physical comes as no surprise. After all, the defining characteristics of this Chennai-based designer’s sensibilities have always been its tactility — think heavily embroidered anarkalis and shimmery sequined jumpsuits that rustle under your fingers. So, when the time came to decide on how to showcase his new collection in this COVID-19 year, he knew he wanted to go against the tide of digital content. In an atypical move from the designer, who is known for his star-studded and decadent ramp walks, Sidney decided to go old-school and commissioned an elaborate lookbook photoshoot to unveil his Spring/Summer 2021 collection, Joie De Vivre.
We caught up with the designer, whose label has been a favourite among Kollywood bigwigs like Trisha, Samantha and Regina Cassandra. He got chatting about finding joy during the pandemic through fashion, his thoughts on virtual showcases and if patrons can look forward to a sustainable collection from his label. Excerpts:
Didn’t the idea of Joie de Vivre (The Joy of Life) amid a global pandemic seem rather ironic?
That’s the beauty of it, and this is how I have always been. I have always found joy in the things that many other people find bleak. Even as a kid, I used to hate Sunday afternoons, when everyone finally got that much-needed nap, because none of the kids wanted to play with me. They would all be asleep, and I would have to find my own way to entertain myself and stay happy. It was similar during the lockdown. Initially, all of us were relaxed. But then, the frustration started to settle in. I would find myself going to the store, pulling the shutters down and just sketching. I think I have channelled all my frustration and angst into this collection. And, those who have seen the collection have said that it is perhaps my best design yet.
I always work well when I am angry or upset. A lot of people ask me what my inspiration is, and while for many it is a scenic setting or a building, for me, it is my anger and a certain sense of discontentment that drive me. I have travelled the world, and I have never been inspired by anything else, at least till date. I also knew the collection would be ready in time for the festive season and the New Year and the theme of the joy of living seemed to fit.
Tell us about Joie De Vivre. How did you translate all of these emotions into the design and create a cohesive line?
I have never approached a collection with a certain colour theory that dark hues are a winter palette or bright shades are best suited for summer. There’s always a combination of both. With Joie De Vivre, I feel like I have gone back to all the things that first inspired me as a designer — like the love of colour, of prints and even the silhouettes. There have been no restrictions in terms of the colours that I have used, there are pops of pastels, and there’s a range of reds, maroons, ochre and metallics. I have also used a lot of ruffle and statement sleeves in this collection, and in contrast, the construction of the garments are sleek and fitted.
Designers, globally, have chosen to go the virtual route to unveil their collections. Was an online show something you had considered?
I have always thought of the launch of a collection in terms of a show. Like with every collection, I had an elaborate idea planned out. We had everyone, from Candice Pinto and Shetal Mallar to Indrani Dasgupta, who were willing to walk. But, I could not relate to the idea of it. For me, virtual shows are a lot like reality TV. It is a lot like life but it really isn’t. You can’t see your colouring properly, your clothes are set against a background that looks artificial... the idea makes me physically cringe. So, I called the show off last minute and asked them to block their dates for whenever things go back to normal. I have always been, as my mother so often reminds me, ‘rigid about my decisions’, and most of the time it has paid off. I do understand the need for an online retail space and we are going online in January. It is a decision I have been very finicky about because fashion is about the experience. But, foraying into the digital space is the need of the hour.
You said that with this collection you have gone back to what first inspired you. How do you think your sensibilities and aesthetics have evolved over the last 15 years?
I think I have toned down quite a bit. My earlier collections had a lot of stonework and they were flashy. If I could translate the idea into colloquial Tamil, I would call it ‘jig jig’. When I started, my focus was on Western wear because it was where my strength was. But, after a while, I forayed into Indian, ethnic wear. Yes, we did create our signature gowns, but we moved away. I think, with this collection, I have circled back to where my inspirations first lay. Also, I have learnt that wearability plays a major role in my design. I don’t just add elements because it is in trend. You need to balance the elements, like in this collection, the sleeves and the ruffles, with construction.
Sustainability got a huge push this year. Can we look forward to a line that fits into this segment?
I am not a big fan of it. For starters, you never see people who make it to Page 3 repeating the same clothes. Secondly, my style sensibilities have never been inclined towards hand-loomed fabrics. I look at cotton, and I think ‘Ugh!’ It just doesn’t look stylish. Whichever way you cut it, it just does not have that element of glamour. I love pure georgettes, crepes, pure silks, organza and these are the fabrics you will find in Joie De Vivre.
The city has quite a few up and coming designers, has anyone caught your eye?
I actually have blinders on my eyes when it comes to other designers. I think the landscape is big enough for everyone. I don’t let myself get into that space of looking at what others are creating, because then you second guess yourself.
Joie De Vivre is in store. Price on request.