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5 Ethnic Fashion Tips Inspired By The Late Satya Paul

By Somdutta Mazumder

Updated - Jan. 9, 2021 4 min read

I still remember my first experience of walking into a Satya Paul store like it was yesterday. Fresh out of school and armed with a newfound fascination with ethnic fashion, I decided to go have a peep at the glittering world of designer sarees. As I trotted around the store in wide-eyed wonder, I marvelled at all the displays bursting with splashes of bright hues, enclosed elegantly in pretty patterns. And although I walked out carrying only the echoes of my experience, I knew what I'd just witnessed was something magical. 


Several years and many leaps in fashion preferences later, I now sit reading the news of the veteran designer's demise. And my mind immediately goes back to the memories of my world becoming more colourful, just with a couple of glances at the man's ingenuity. Effortless in his originality, and iconic in his vision, Satya Paul transformed the landscape of sarees in India in more ways than one can count. Imploring fashion traditionalists to move beyond the practical notion of a saree, Satya Paul brought to us innovative uses of different textiles, uncustomary patterns with geometric elements, and a palette of vivid colours and neon shades. Over time, his label ventured into other categories like ties, scarves, handbags and kaftans, but every piece and product had that original touch of his bold approach to textile design. 


It's a big ask to summarise all of Satya Paul's contributions to the arena of Indian fashion, in one crisp blog. But I'll give you one better, and tell you how to embrace his avant-garde ideas in your own ethnic ensembles. 


1. Pick Offbeat Prints & Patterns

While the brand's ideas might have diversified in recent times, Satya Paul has always been synonymous with quirky digital prints inspired by the elements of life. If you were to glance through their catalogue at any point in time, you'll spot prints and patterns centred around diverse categories from Indian architecture, renowned paintings and forces of nature, to abstract patterns and regular objects like lipsticks. So when you're trying to embody the iconic designer's vision in your ethnic fashion sense, the inclusion of unique, bold and larger-than-life prints is a must. Think kurtas adorned by pop graphics, stoles covered in large geometric patterns, and sarees with vibrant abstract icons. 


Image Courtesy - Pinterest


2. Rethink The Rules 

Satya Paul's legendary legacy is defined by the notion of bending norms and age-old fashion rules. He designed the "trouser saree" at a time when the garment was restricted to traditional drapes. So one of the key ways in which you can adopt his rules of fashion, is by breaking those already instituted. Wear your saree around a pant-suit, or throw a belted longline coat around a Patiala salwar. Mix up two distinct types of print on the top and bottom, or don your saree like a skirt with a crop top for a blouse. In simple words, get out of run-of-the-mill fashion boxes.


Image Courtesy - Satya Paul on Facebook


3. Let Go Of Tried-And-Tested Colour Combos 

Satya Paul is recognised as the man who introduced Indian fashion designing to a bolder, braver colour palette dominated by bright, vibrant pop and neon shades. You know those customary rules of colour styling passed on through generations? Ones like "wear dark shades and steer clear of neons if you have a dusky complexion" or "fair women should stick to pastel shades"? Satya Paul was one of the first elite designers to challenge these assumptions. So to pay homage to the icon by way of your own fashion choices, try to be equal parts fearless and creative with the colour combinations you opt for. We're talking electric blues, hot pinks, blazing reds and oranges and the likes. 


Image Courtesy - Pinterest 


4. Try Breezy Fabrics Beyond Cotton 

Another one of Satya Paul's tremendous contributions is his innovative use of diverse textiles, fabrics and handlooms, several of which were unheard of at that time. He was the master of unexpected material pairings in traditional ethnic wear such as chiffon and crepe, muga and tussar silks or metallic fibre weaving in handloom fabrics. You can incorporate this strategy in your ethnic wardrobe by moving past typical cotton Kurtas and Banarasi silk sarees. Instead, reach for uniquely constructed apparel like a poly-crepe churidaar, or a silk and chiffon saree with faux gem embellishments. 


Image Courtesy - Satya Paul on Facebook


5. Opt For Striking Yet Sleek Accessories 

Last but by no means the least, if your ethnic styling draws inspiration from Satya Paul's fashion innovation, don't skip out on including accessories that reflect that as well. Go for handbags in vivid colours but simplistic, classic shapes. Pick jewellery in burnt gold, with metallic or fabric tassel details. Reach for a boxy metal hand-clutch splashed with geometric lines and patterns, or play up your look by wrapping a funky chiffon scarf around your neck. 


Image Courtesy - Ajio 


Let's keep the icon's legacy alive, by channelling his innovative vision in our styling attempts. RIP Satya Paul. 

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