The Silver Spotlight


The Silver Spotlight

Suneet Varma celebrates 25 years in the industry with a new sensibility designed by his fashion vision for the future

For someone who has always been bad at maths, “twenty-five” has become a beguiling number. Imaginatively, as designer Suneet Varma’s writer-mom Indra Varma would agree, he turned his 25 th anniversary in the fashion industry into a celebration of future. At a memorable show called The Eternal Lightness of Being: To Live, to Love, to Kiss held in Delhi last Saturday, Varma’s voice that walked the ramp before his clothes said as much. “With this I look at the future: here’s to the next 25 years,” he said, warmly dedicating the collection to friend and muse Nandita Basu—also a designer.

Nostalgia is the hottest fabric this year with some of India’s most influential designers celebrating twenty years and more of work. But Varma refuses to wear it. His Spring Couture collection was a departure point, displaying that the best way to celebrate the past is to shed it. This was strong, good fashion: flowery prints, beautiful, modern silhouettes (from saris to leggings, palazzos and dresses) in a riot of colours matching April’s moody madness–all glamourously styled. No hair raising wedding wear, lehngas or Anarkalis. Varma may have recently jogged into our memory for his tie-ups with international luxury brands like Judith Leiber and BMW 7 Series and for bringing Armani Junior to India, but who can forget that he was all about lame and lace, Swarovskis and embroideries and everything that stood for decadent bling? So, Eternal Lightness…is something whose time had come. “As long as there is new learning, I am up for challenge. I like to see myself as a student,” says the 48 year old fitness freak, always so impeccably mannered that you’d think his parents didn’t spare the rod. They spared it alright; he was brought up liberally, allowed to pursue his calling in a family of bankers. Couturier by nature, he admits that his artistic bent of mind drew him around the bend even as a child. In Class 8, he won a global award for an artistic (imaginary) rendition of Venice.

Take a minute’s detour to glance at the students of this fashion “student”. JJ Valaya, Ashish Soni, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Manish Arora are some of the many designers Varma taught at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in the late Eighties after completing graduation at the London School of Fashion. He also worked with Lalbhai’s of Arvind Mills in Ahmedabad on the Gloria Vanderbilt denims project.

If being one of the early “originals” would put Varma into long term fashion recall, so did his aspirational couture, for flamboyant NRIs or the rich of India. Few have forgotten the “gold breast plate” (see pic) he created in 1992. “I have been inspired by Botticelli paintings in my imagery, especially the Birth of Venus,” he recalls. Model Madhu Sapre was his muse for 10 years and his styling of her and her then boyfriend Milind Soman are rare sparks of fashion frozen in time in photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta’s work.

What he created for his 25 th anniversary show is a dream he will now have to live even by the day. Of all the tributes paid to him this month, the best is the one he has paid himself. By being unpredictably new, while protecting his old core.