Bold, Independent & Aesthetic are the three words that describe SANGHAMITRA, a fashion brand founded by Sanghamitra (Risha) Phukan is equally the same for these characteristics and a bit more due to the creative hormones restlessly tickling her soul.
In her childhood, she used to take shelter in her imagination world where she used to explore the possibilities of possibilities; create and recreate the art; and satiate her innovative buds. As a model and fashion designer, she wants SANGHAMITRA to have a stand alone identity and achieve greater heights.
If given a choice and chance, she would like to work with Kate Moss and/or Freja Beha Erichsen for the designs.
Sanghamitra is born and brought up in Guwahati, and currently, staying in London, where she misses the three important elements of her northeast memories: family, friends and food. This June-baby, however, is planning to set foot in Guwahati, in fact, in India for SANGHAMITRA.
Let us go back to your childhood.
I went to the Holy Child school, Guwahati, then to the City Faculty, Guwahati, for junior college. I went to Bachelor of Mass Media in Mumbai University, followed by Fashion Business studies from the London College of Fashion. During my childhood & teenage, there were so many things I wanted to be & do. Every day was a possibility of doing something new.
I was naturally inclined towards the theatre. I took part in a lot of school and college plays. I even travelled around in several cities in India to perform. In case of theatre, I loved the experience of playing different characters as I found them very interesting and unnerving. I worked with such inspiring and encouraging people that I felt immensely driven to learn and educate myself in that field. Being born in a creative environment, books, music, movies, theatre and the related things, were the influencers.
My parents always insisted that me and my brother should be well read and informed. What I loved about my childhood was being able to go out to the neighbourhood and play with the friends. We used to hang out and chit-chat a lot or be engaged in pursuing our hobbies. I feel that was the foundation for the instinct of passion, which followed in my life and career later on.
What inspired you to step into the world of fashion?
I loved playing dress up kind of games. I loved fashion from different eras and how it influenced our society and evolved in the years. It was fascinating for me to visualize myself creating or designing something completely out of my own inspiration or imagination. This is what drew me towards it.
I loved to paint or sketch since childhood, which proved to be immensely useful.
At what age you started modelling?
I was 19, and pursuing graduation, when I got my first chance to shoot a fashion film for the infamous ensemble designer store called Kimaya. It was one of the most prestigious assignments, I could have had the opportunity of collaborating with, being dressed by Manish Malhotra & Tarun Tahliani. That was my first official foray into the world of fashion & modeling, which literally happened to me as a mean to earn some extra pocket money while studying.
Which online platforms have you done the modeling for?
I have modelled for a lot of commercial and fashion brands, namely Reebok Shoes and Apparel, United Colours of Benetton, Dove Shampoo, Cannon Cameras, Lycra Shapewear, Lipton Iced Tea, Tesco, Barclays Bank, Selfridges, etc.
I have also worked in both TV commercials and print and online media for all the brands mentioned above.
Tell us about your experience of walking the ramp for Phiney Pet.
Phiney Pet is a London based designer whose designs are girly-cool with a mix of androgyny. On the day of the show, I was wearing a beautiful denim dress with the words Happy Birthday embroidered on it.
The entire show was about a birthday celebration, where we got to eat donuts and chupa-chups while we walked around with her gorgeous clothes. There was a huge diversity in a show with models of all age, shape, size and colour. It was really an eye opening moment for me walking the ramp for Phiney at London Fashion Week S/S 2015.
That was one of those moments when I realized that the entire fashion scenario was going through a major uplift. I really felt I was a part of something very progressive.
How did your parents react to your decision of making a venture into modeling?
My parents have always been very supportive and encouraging. They are the reason, I could aspire to achieve milestones in my life. They always shared their opinions or viewpoints, that helped.
Tell us about your daily regime that you follow to get that perfect body shape.
The past five years have been very challenging for me to keep fit due to knee injury, which stopped me from working out or run/ jog. Then I was introduced to Pilates, which changed my way of looking at life. It was a discipline that I followed and inculcated in my life Monday to Friday. Along with that came conscious cooking and eating healthy meals. I do have cheat-days to treat myself with occasional yummy ice cream, burgers or pizzas. The key to my healthy lifestyle was that there was no space for any diet, but discipline.
What began first: modeling or designing? And, which one you enjoy the most and why?
Actually, it was a bit of both - modelling and acting started first.
I thoroughly enjoy both and I believe that I can be successful as long as I'm focused and dedicated.
My knowledge as a model helps me understand what could possibly work on my designs.
I love pushing my boundaries. Both the professions give me an adrenaline rush.
What led you to fashion designing?
I always loved fashion, especially vintage and playing dress up. I used to love watching my mother get ready,
go shopping or go to the tailor to get an outfit made. Both my grandmas used to knit. This collectively, used to fascinate me. I think that is what triggered the designer in me. The idea of creating what I liked and to be able to add my own detail to it was my first step towards designing.
Tell us about your fashion brand: SANGHAMITRA.
SANGHAMITRA is an Indo-Italian ethical luxury brand, conceived around the essential concept of bringing together the ancient Indian hand weaving and tailoring traditions with contemporary European fashion edits, while focusing on quality. We aim to simplify and re-value sustainability and simplify complex and intricate edits,
to create clean and elegant design pieces. The brand re-values ancient Indian tailoring traditions, by respecting our artisans' labour, raising awareness about their work and cultural heritage. All our collections are produced through a sustainable process, giving life to unique handmade garments using exclusive natural fabrics.
Since SANGHAMITRA is an Indo-Italian ethical luxury brand, share a bit about the Indo-Italian essence that you have sprinkled in the making of this brand.
My work for SANGHAMITRA'S collections are inspired by both Indian heritage and European history, art and fashion culture. By reinterpreting traditions & processing current trends through my peculiar taste, I create simple and clean layouts, based on elegant shapes & enriched, at times, by touches of fine hand embroidery.
I focus on quality & creativity, within the effort of preserving & reinterpreting Indian traditional fashion, which is a constant source of inspiration for global fashion trends to re-discover the roots.
Our Indo-Italian soul is represented by our logo, inspired by a Celtic interpretation of the Triskelion, the Buddhist meditation symbol. This metaphysical symbol represents an ancestral cultural link between India & Europe, becoming therefore a symbolic statement of our heritage.
Is it solely a women’s wear or also men’s wear brand?
It is solely a women’s wear brand inspired by menswear fashion.
For now there are no plans, but I’ll never say never. So do watch out.
How sustainability is imbibed in the process of creating sustainable ensemble?
We see an ethical and sustainable future, where true values will be given priority over social status, and businesses will strive in a sustainable manner for maximizing the quality than profits. SANGHAMITRA wants to actively participate in these transitions as a cultural link between India and the Western cultures, within the fields of luxury, fashion, creative design, communication and beauty.
Unbiased attention is constantly rendered to the quality of both fabrics & handwork. Each piece is handcrafted by Indian artisans, using precious natural fabrics, some of which are directly sourced from the rural villages of North Eastern India and hand weaved through a millenary tradition. We wish to preserve and keep this noble tradition alive through each of our creations.
Have you ever organized a show with a collection of environment-friendly apparels?
Yes, I have. I was elated to get an opportunity to represent Assam & participate in London Fashion Week AW 2014. The whole collection was hand made & hand woven in between London, Mumbai & Guwahati.
I couldn't have been prouder for creating a sustainable collection & presenting it to the global audience.
Your designs reflect a bold & feminine look. Any concept underlying it?
I always see women as strong and independent individuals who are capable of immense endurance without losing the very essence of being feminine (not that I’m suggesting men don't). And,
that is what my creations stand for: feminine fluidity merged with an androgynous wearability.
Apart from the Sarongs & Kaaftaans, any other design(s) you are planning to experiment with for your Resort Collection?
There is a growing demand and culture for resort-wear. So far, I have focused on beach cover ups and sarongs, but I would love to add to that. I do not wish to produce what already exists, but I would love to see how a sustainable swim wear would turn out if I were to design it using environment-friendly fabrics.
How does your native or birthplace inspire you in designing?
Northeast India’s beauty, landscape and the greenery have always inspired me to feel at one with myself.
It has a very grounding impact on me.
It makes me reminisce my childhood & where I grew up amidst the beautiful backdrop of the Brahmaputra. I didn't value or realize this during my childhood, but certainly now as I lived outside Assam most of my young adult life. When I decided to design my collection for my own label, I just felt this instinctive need to come back to my roots, what I knew best. My first collection is an ode & tribute to the Northeast India, from my understanding & viewpoint.
Any upcoming ventures or experiments?
Yes and I'm super excited about it. I'm finally ready to launch Sanghamitra in India, in none other than Guwahati to witness it first hand. I have a huge and a rather interesting show planned for January 2018. It will be a wholesome experience of Sanghamitra's story so far, which will also let us find our roots.
Share your achievements with us.
I think, being able to represent India on a global scale as a brand ambassador for Reebok women was quite something for a young working model. Right after that, I was chosen to be one of the new faces for the United Colours of Benetton.
I am, so far, the only Indian girl to have been featured in this iconic, & politically and socially relevant advertising campaign shot by legendary photographer Oliviero Toscani. I also went on to do their beauty campaign for two consecutive years. Also, I will always remember when I conducted a special press show during London Fashion Week 2014, a milestone in my designing career as I met and spoke with so many journalists from different publications and newspapers and received rave reviews.
Any plans of expansion?
Yes, I have been building opportunities to launch Sanghamitra in India. I feel it is the right time to be there and people are ready for more than ever, to explore and find themselves through clothes, especially women. I feel that people in this era are way more experimental than they used to be.
If anyone wants to buy your designs, where should they knock at?
All one needs to do is login at: www.sanghamitraphukan.com and click on our online store and browse through the collections.
When are you planning to tie the knot? How do you visualize your better half to be like?
Well, I’m not sure of that. My schedule has been hectic for the last few years, and I never really gave it a serious thought. I would definitely love to get married and settle down. And, I would like to be with someone who is logically supportive of my decisions, be it with my work or personal life. I would reciprocate the same too. I like a man who is pragmatic, intelligent, understanding and caring. The idea of sharing my life with someone is being good friends first as I believe that the companionship will last through the years to come and if that can be rooted in honesty, then there is nothing more I could ask for.
. Your favourite food: Indian, Italian, Japanese and Thai Cuisine
. Favorite holiday destination: Italy, France, Cape Town, & Seychelles
. Favourite Book: Love in the time of Cholera
. Favourite leisure activity: Reading, Walking in the parks, listening to some good jazz and blues
. Your Motto of life: Life is a comedy of errors, enjoy it as you like it
. Favourite Colour: Black, White and Grey
Any social cause you are associated with or support?
I own an NGO, Puppies for Adoption wherein we adopt & rescue stray dogs and now cats too. We treat them if needed and then put them up for adoption to a loving family for free. If people want to donate something towards the foundation that is more than welcome.
Any message for the women who want to unfold their wings & fly, but they are unable to do so due to some constraints or social stigma?
I would like to say, from my experience, that if you really want to do something in your life you have to give it a real go.
If you don't have opportunities, create them, find ways to bridge the gap to reach your goal. Don't be afraid of failing and never stop learning from your experiences.