In My Experience
Rashmi Sathe, designer and artist
Excerpts from an interview with Shrehya Agarwal in which Rashmi Sathe speaks about her journey into design, her various and intriguing influences, and how storytelling plays a vital role when it comes to brands.
As a child, Rashmi started painting after receiving a set of paintbrushes from her mother, which inspired her greatly.
Working with acclaimed designers as part of a workshop encouraged her to enter fashion designing.
An internship involving a project with Banarasi weavers expanded her horizons, providing her with a deeper understanding of textiles.
Mumbai and the stories from Indian mythology feature prominently in her work.
Switzerland and its alternative art scene changed her way of looking at things and helped her foray into the world of performance art.
Autobiographies are very important to every brand and the questions about their origins are vital to the creative process, she says.
Weaving stories into art and design
The story is the art and the art is the story.
This circle often repeats itself in the works by many artists. The diverse and multicultural environment in India has provided many artists and designers with a number of stories which has inspired their work. One of them is designer and artist Rashmi Sathe.
Hailing from Mumbai, she owns a bespoke design label that creates exquisite women’s wear, does illustrations and has staged performance art pieces. Some of her art works have found a place for themselves in the alternative art scene in Switzerland.
Q: How did your journey, where you bring together art, design and fashion, begin?
A: I was always inclined towards art and design. When I was 10, my mother gifted me her sable-hair brush set, which changed my life. At that point of time, I wanted to be an artist and paint all my life.
Then, when I was in the 9th grade, I enrolled for these summer workshops at the Sheetal Design Studio, conducted by fashion icons Wendell Rodricks and Hemant Trivedi. This is where my life changed again and I set my sights on pursuing fashion design.
Q: What other experiences on your design journey can you tell us about that had a profound influence on your craft?
A: I started my design career as an intern for Mr Jai Ram Rakhiani in 2007. During my internship, I had the opportunity to work closely with Banarasi saree weavers. The project aimed at reviving this dying art form and helping local weavers develop a self-sustaining economy. This gave me a deeper understanding about Indian textiles.
I have worked with well-known Indian designers and on period films, including Jodhaa Akbar, and I also learnt a lot of things while working as a faculty member at Pearl Academy and ITM IDM Mumbai. It was then I realised that being a part of the industry would expose me to the professional requirements of my craft and so I started my independent consultancy in 2016.
As a result of that I was lucky enough to have collaborated with designer Rutu Bhonsle for New York Fashion Week in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Q: Mumbai is where you were born and grew up. How does that influence your designs and art?
A: My art and design practice is very complex because I grew up in Mumbai. The city defines me. It is a melting pot of so many cultures and communities, which has seeped into my art.
Indian mythology with its many stories and allegories, and fictional characters from storybooks, especially Sherlock Holmes, inspire my art. Indian rituals, from a scientific and anthropological point of view, feature in my art too.
Q: You took a conscious decision to pursue a masters in fine arts in Switzerland. Why is that?
A: Pursuing graduate studies in an international and multi-cultural environment had always been my aim. Media is in a constant state of flux today and I believed that the international exposure to ever-changing media would influence my craft.
Q: How did your experience in Switzerland help mold your ideas about art and provide you with new perspectives?
A: Switzerland is very open to diverse cultures. It is the birthplace of performance art and the Dada art movement.
The country has all these alternative art spaces that are very happening. I got a chance to present my performance art pieces there. I think that changed my perspective towards art and design. You can trace the roots of the Bauhaus art movement back to Switzerland and Germany.
When I went there I realised what a great movement that was. Inspired by it, I want to fuse and integrate that into my design ideology now. I learnt 3D printing, laser cutting, performance art and silkscreen printing which provided me an experience that was a blend of design and art.
Q: All of your learnings come together to inspire you by the beauty and power of Storytelling. It has always been crucial to your work. How can luxury brands incorporate that in their creative processes?
A: Growing up, I was fascinated by stories and storytelling. For me, brands like Comme de Garçons and Chanel, stand out. This idea of experimental fashion and the stories behind their collections, that’s very important. Brands and individuals need to be aware of their autobiographies.
When I teach, the element of autobiography plays a pivotal role. The questions where are you from and what are your roots are very important in the creative process. Answers pertaining to questions of their origins and how they came to be need to be revisited.
The migration patterns that emerge from their stories are very important. Brands need to look at themselves from within and start from the migration patterns and then their history.
Q: What can we expect from you in future?
A: I am currently working on three projects. The first project aims at integrating performance art and fashion. The project’s idea is to explore the concept of dismantling oppressive patriarchal structures by blurring the gender gap.
The second project tries to answer the question of design education during the pandemic. I launched a digital educational platform ‘The Design and Art Loft’ for art and design education to help students to access design and art education online.
The third project, titled the Red Thread, is a link between India and Switzerland, in collaboration with Elsbeth Carolin Iten, a religious scientist, photographer and artist. The project explores the idea of consumerism.
Watch the whole interview with Rashmi Sathe on our YouTube channel here.
Rashmi Sathe is a tutor at the Helen Cooper School of Luxury and leads the course on 'How to create a Luxury brand'.