Home Chennai The Fantastic Shantanu Goenka

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    Featuring exquisite embroidery, the Kolkata designer’s world sees frogs in pearl lace and mice stealing the show

    OUR fashion designers are finally warming up to the idea of expositions and unconventional off-site showings. Ask Raw Mango’s Sanjay Garg, who invited the fashion cognoscenti to his farmhouse in Chhatarpur last October, where the runway was a cement path and an outhouse served as backstage. Earlier this week, Sabyasachi Mukerjee presented his Summer/Resort 2015 line in an industrial setting at a crumbling old mill in Mumbai. But the most dramatic of all happens to be Kolkata designer Shantanu Goenka’s exposition, Fashioning Fairy Tales, in his hometown last month. Goenka tapped into the romantic vein of childhood classics like Sleeping Beauty and Pied Piper of Hamelin to present a narrative that included 400 fibre glass mice (for the latter) and 40 meticulously fashioned garments. His venue, Shalini Nopany and Pooja Goenka’s landmark store, 85 Lansdowne, had been transformed into a fantastical landscape featuring cages, fibreglass mushrooms and four poster beds, like a Harvey Nichols shop window during the holidays. But his boldest move? To feature his work on dress forms, giving fashion models a miss. The idea, he said later, was to let his guests – fashion journalists and influencers from around the country, together with Kolkata’s social set – touch and inspect a garment without the distraction of a model, to let the clothes take centrestage. It seemed to have worked, for amidst the sounds of laughter and clinking glasses, guests were seen quietly studying the heavily embroidered pieces from close quarters.
    Way of the needle
    In true Shantanu Goenka style, the Parsi gara embroidery, mukaish and zardozi on the diaphanous overlays, and lace encrusted floor length dresses and sari ensembles worked to create an exquisite tapestry. The handmade pearl lace and dupion lace embroidery were almost jewel-like, with 3D hand-cut flowers on soft chiffons and tulles. Thread shading, stained with tea and coffee, lent a vintage feel. In shades like pistachio and vintage rose, the garments saw the unabashed use of Swarovski. Fortunately, Goenka, 39, had chosen a muted version, flown in from Austria, that gleamed like dewdrops when it caught the light.
    Flight of fancy1
    A fan of British vintage, Goenka has been influenced by the Victorian era and Alexander McQueen in the past. But this collection began with his six-year-old daughter, who saw his pearl lace embroidery and asked, ‘why not Cinderella?’ Thus came the references to the Queen of Hearts, the Frog Prince and so on, and a storyboard that took at least 200 people (including scenographer and set designer Swarup Dutta). Goenka plans to have private showings of the collection in Delhi and Mumbai. And in the weeks that have followed, he has received orders and enquiries from his clientele of 18- to 70-year-olds. ‘‘It’s shabby chic for young women and the nostalgic element for the older women,’’ he said, confessing that patrons like Sangita Jindal from JSW Group and  Usha Mittal carry off his clothes to perfection. Perhaps referring to the focus on textile and weaves by contemporaries from his hometown, Mukherjee  for instance, Goenka admitted he has consciously veered towards decadent fabrics often flown in from around the world. ‘‘I wanted to revive needlepoint and cross-stitch, and invest in a craft where the sari border alone can take up to six months to create,’’ he said, admitting that for years now, he has only focussed on couture. Much later, over an elaborate Bengali dinner of steamed bekti in banana leaf and mishti doi tiramisu, Goenka agreed that his six-month project had gone according to plan. For his guests who took home white mice as a souvenirs, it was a fairy tale worth sharing.
    Rs 60,000 onwards. Available on order at Goenka’s studio in Kolkata and 85 Lansdowne. Details: 033-32935339

    Art of reuse
    Incidentally, Goenka’s passion for vintage extends to his after sales service. Given the hours of embroidery seen in each of his pieces, regular clients are encouraged to bring back damaged or stained pieces. ‘‘We over-dye or treat them. They are like heirloom pieces,’’ he explains. Sometimes, customers repurpose a garment as a jacket or an outfit for the daughter, or it is ‘repatched’ on another sari.The complete picture
    Exhibiting an interest in the ritual of dressing up as a young boy, Goenka used to mix and match outfits for his mother and sister. Today, he visualises the entire look for clients. He invites a draper, offers inputs on shoes, hair and make-up and jewellery. ‘‘This line is about simple nude shoes and ballerinas with stilettoes. Avoid pearl borders on your shoe. As for the jewellery, go with South Sea pearls or an emerald or ruby; just one piece, be it a nice ring or earring. Don’t overload the look with a heavy necklace,’’ he cautions.

    —Rosella Stephen

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