IN THE 17 years since they moved their headquarters from Paris to Infocity, Gurgaon, Didier Lecoanet and Hemant Sagar of the eponymous Indo-French fashion label Lecoanet Hemant have gone from being members of the Parisian Haute Couture Syndicate and dressing Texan millionaires, Saudi princesses and French aristocrats, to building a state-of-the-art factory where they manufacture their couture and luxury ready-to-wear lines and aim to “transition from artisanal to semi-industrial”. All set to complete 36 years in the fashion industry, the duo hosted a retrospective exhibition “Paris-New Delhi, From Haute Couture to the Technologies of Elegance”, at Bikaner House, Delhi, which ends today. On display at the exhibition were nearly 40 creations; half made in Paris (1984-2000) and the other half at their Gurgaon atelier (2000-2017). Sagar spoke to us about their journey and the need for a “train conductor” in fashion. Edited excerpts:
Why did you do this exhibition and not stick to a traditional fashion show to celebrate your landmark moment?
I’m actually protesting that in India we keep doing everything in a traditional way only to honour the past. In the land of textiles and colours, it’s difficult to find more than six metres — that is, a sari — of a specific material. That the young designers do not have a feed to do funky stuff, and officially, they don’t want it anyway because grandpa doesn’t want it. This is the reality of our country. I too honour my grandparents, but I also honour my 2017-make mobile phone. One doesn’t have to exclude the other.
There isn’t enough emphasis on modernism. From Paris’s Faubourg Saint-Honore to Infocity, Gurgaon, how has your fashion changed and what have been the highlights of your journey?
It’s exactly the same thing, except the medium has changed. In Paris, we were the most Indian of Parisians and in India we are the most Parisian of Indians. The journey hasn’t had that many highlights because I’ve been constructing all the way. Fashion, the way I see it, is like being a train conductor and sticking your head out of the window to look in the front whether the rails are right, and look at the back to check if your wagons are all there. In India, this doesn’t apply because everyone is sitting in First Class already. Resultantly, there is no conductor and we’re not quite sure where we’re going with our fashion. So, I’ve decided to do it by myself.
Your move to India “was aimed at transitioning from artisanal to semi-industrial”. Please comment.
The artisan who functions from his home doesn’t have to report to anybody, not even conform to industrial norms. But I believe that the word ‘industry’ means to be industrious, and to work together. We are not alone in the world and neither is the artisan. The person whom the artisan sells to unfortunately bargains him down. And we call it honouring the artisans. The artisan needs to leave the 19th century and enter the 21st. And this is what I’m reinforcing with organised creation in a semi-industrial manner.
Your exhibit highlights the ‘technologies of elegance’. Please elaborate.
I’m always thinking about how to reuse what I’ve learnt in made-to-measure in a non made-to-measure scenario. This is difficult because if you’re producing luxury in a certain organised manner, you have to follow principles of mass production without it being mass. We’re talking of making seven pieces but up to industrial norms, something that can be sold anywhere in the world, not like making one garment for maasi and one for chaachi.
You’re great believers in collaborating with artisans.
We’ve worked with the Gobelin weavers in Aubusson, France, where we had a piece of canvas woven with a motif which is actually the picture of a landscape. We have worked with Master Tatsumura, Kyoto’s mythical brocade weaver, and the porcelain painters of the Royal Prussian Porcelain painters of Berlin, who painted a German castle on tulle for us. Of course, a lot of these pieces were one-offs and it would be difficult to show them here.
What’s next on the cards for Lecoanet Hemant?
We’re working on our next online collection for GENES Lecoanet Hemant. We’re going to further market Ayurgenic, our ayurvedic line, a unique treatment we discovered in Kerala, where the fabric is infused with ayurvedic oils that enhance your metabolism.
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