Interview with designer Sushama Pagare

Sushama Pagare
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Sushama Pagare, a Mumbai based designer has made several international inroads apart from an extensive career in India spanning close to two decades.

What is common to Billy Porter, Randi Rahm, Naomi Campbell, Kylie Jenner, Demi Lovato, Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez? If you need a hint, there is an Indian connection. If you are still thinking, well, all these celebrities have worn creations created by ace fashion designer Sushama Pagare.

Demi Lovato in Sushama Pagare
Demi Lovato in Sushama Pagare

After having studied in JaiHind College in Mumbai, she did her B.A in Political Science and Philosophy. “I grew up in Kala Ghoda, Great western building where fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani’s office was above my house and the showroom was below the house, so I always saw grand garments pass by. I used to be fascinated by them and never missed a chance to touch the beadings and feel the fabrics. I fell in love with fashion since then.” With her roots in a loving middle class family and supportive parents, she started with joining a tailoring class at Colaba called Coopers where she learnt from a Parsi lady and then started making clothes for herself, family and friends. “Then I started selling at the Oak tree, Colaba. But then experience and exploitation always go hand in hand and I have learnt my lessons the hard way. One fashion house asked me to design a few clothes and took my file and released my designs into the market without my knowledge.” After this, Pagare decided to opt for a job and started working part time for export houses doing odd jobs and freelancing chores. Soon after, she started travelling and met a lot of interesting people and there has never been looking back for her. “Even today I make my visits to the Pydhone market to look for interesting things.”

Billy Porter- Met Gala 2019
Billy Porter- Met Gala 2019

Her 18 year journey saw her getting a real break with international designers when she was selected by The Rotary Club to represent India for upcoming designers in Paris. “It was a life changing experience for me and the 60 day exchange programme gave me an experience which only a few people can be blessed with. A lot of creative people were in the run, but only five of us were selected after three rounds of interview and 40 days of training.” She also designed clothes for Tripty Jindal Arya, Shuri Vora and Shabnam Gandhi. Sushama has worked with several commercial labels like Badgley Mischka, Philippe and Adam Selam and The Blonds. Sushama has collaborated with the ace in game The Blonds, a designer duo co-founded by Philip Blond and David Blond. Billy Porter’s outfit at Met Gala 2019 was designed by her too. “This concept was originally a design from my archive in 2015 when The Blonds were looking for their NYFW inspiration which was an Egyptian theme. My swatch strike was converted in gold and the huge wings were made after hours and hours of hand work. The main suit he wore was created by us for The Blonds in 2019 itself and it had a lot of stones and chains hand beaded.”

Sushama Pagare creation
Sushama Pagare creation

Having worked with celebrities and designers in New York she says that celebrities are very clear of what is required and everything is very well planned right down to the level of quality and precision required. “Because these garments are usually for their world tour concerts, the celebrities wear them and have to also perform sometimes so the durability and strength of all the technical details have to be very high standard, there is no space for errors,” she admits. Being a designer herself, fashion for her is memorable and eternal. “Whether it is your grandmother’s zardosi beaded old saree or a master piece worn by Billy Porter which the world will remember or a special suit worn by Jennifer Lopez for the Elis All Star Tribute Show (Graceland) each piece should be eternal and leave an impression on the person who wore it and the person who sees it.”

For someone who believes that clothes are all about bringing out one’s personality, she is inspired by nature. “For me a NatGeo show has thousand inspirations to offer, especially when you see all rare insect or marine species, they have such lovely color combinations to offer and it is so amazing. Alexander McQueen’s concepts are something I can relate to and in India I love Manish Arora’s work and he inspires me to believe that I must create it, however crazy it might seem.” Her tag line has always been ‘elegance with a touch of craze’ and bling is a constant source of inspiration for its ability to be loud and sensuous at the same time. Looking ahead, she says, “I am always doing research on new materials and concepts and will keep visiting different countries and work with different designers. I will continue to travel and I also want to enter the Indian fashion industry and dress celebrities with some very unusual garments. I want for my work to leave a fossil print in people’s minds,” she signs off.

This story first appeared in The New Indian Express dated Feb 16,2020 here:

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