In Conversation With Sarthak Raswant

Tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m 22, I graduated out of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College last year. I had done B. Com, and am currently working for Gaurav Gupta: he’s one of the leading couturiers in India. I’m his brand and digital manager, so everything from his marketing to social media, to in-house PR, events, media relations are all handled by me. Apart from this, I’m also one of the very few male fashion bloggers in India. I’ve worked with Myntra, Dhruv Kapur, 43188 for my blog; in one of the bigger labels, there’s Manish Arora, Amit Aggarwal, Gaurav Gupta, to name some. For my blog, I’m the stylist, I’m also the photographer, and a model.

So how did you get here?
It’s a little unusual, because I have zero professional training for fashion- it was just passion driven. In college, I used to follow a few fashion bloggers who were really big, so I thought, hey, I have basic fashion sense, I’m reasonably good-looking, so why not do something with it? So I started my blog a year ago, it’s doing pretty well, I’ve hit about 30,000 views a month, and I also make money out of it, so I’ve been able to turn my passion into a successful career as well. When I started my blog, that really helped me get a job interview at Gaurav Gupta. And throughout my three years of college, I was always working- full time, and interning. I was lucky that my college didn’t have any attendance issues, so I was able to do all these things. So I worked with Adidas, RedBull, for a really long time during college, and that’s what gave me the social media and marketing experience, which is how I finally ended up at Gaurav Gupta.
So basically, my advice to college students is to never waste a single day in your college life. Yes, the studies are crazy, and whoever said that college is easy, it’s not. The studies are much harder than school, but you still need to make time to get internships and professional experience, because that’s what’s going to give you confidence when you sit for job interviews after college. And it’s great that a lot of kids are actually understanding that.

What was the turning point for you?
I think it was somewhere around last year, when my blog turned about 6-7 months old, and I started realizing that B. Com is not my cup of tea. My parents wanted me to sit for my CA exams, but it’s definitely not something I see myself doing. I was creative, so I thought maybe I can do something in advertising and PR. So I remember my final exams had ended, and I sat for my IIMC exam, and I was pretty sure I’ll nail it, considering I had all the experience. But I did not clear that exam, so that’s when I realized, maybe I need to pull up my socks a little more, and my blog’s doing well and I have a business mind, so why don’t I look into the business aspect of fashion and merge the two, and find a job in the creative field in fashion- not fashion designing itself. So I started working really hard for the blog, made a lot of good contacts, worked my ass off. There’ve been times when I’ve worked for designers for free for 30 hours straight without sleep.

Is the fashion industry similar to what you had envisioned in your mind?
It definitely is. I knew around this time last year that I will end up doing something like this. It probably comes from the confidence I gained by working throughout college, and when I’m talking to someone, I know that I’ve worked for it and I do deserve it. So yeah, touch wood. It’s all working out.

Why do you think fashion is important?
Yeah, um, you know how they all say that you should wear something that you’re super comfortable in? It’s actually wrong. Giving a very simple example, if you’re not super fit and you think tight clothes or body-fitting clothes are not your cup of tea, it sort of motivates you to fit into better clothes. So yeah, fashion is really important in your life, it does motivate you and give you direction.

Do you think there can be a balance between comfort and fashion?
Of course! You wear things that are non- tight and be comfortable in them. You could still wear sweat pants and look really fashionable in them. Obviously, you need to have the confidence to pull it off. But yeah, like, I wear clothes that are extremely comfortable, like the denim joggers in summers – they’re loose, they’re like denim pyjamas; or wear summer sweatshirts, and you stand out. If you’re fat, you don’t have to worry that your stomach is showing or anything of the sort, you can just put them on. You’re not just a guy wearing a random shirt, you’re wearing something pretty different. So yeah, fashion can definitely be comfortable.

But then it isn’t always comfort.
Yeah, you can’t always be wearing sweatpants or joggers all the time, but again, that’s when fashion does motivate you. I’m going through a weight problem right now because I don’t have time to go to the gym, and when I’m shooting with designers in model-sized clothes, they don’t fit me. Last year, when I shot with one of the designers, his model clothes fit me perfectly; and a while back, when I shot, I didn’t fit into those amazing clothes, so that really ticked me off, and so I have cut down on the junk quite a bit.

Is it as glamorous as people make it out to be?
It actually quite is. If you talk about fashion week or a fashion party in particular, it’s pretty glamorous. It’s difficult, yes. There are times when you don’t want to wear fancy clothes but you still have to. When I work for a designer I’m expected to be perfectly dressed at all times but there are times when I just want to wear a t-shirt and shorts. I’m lucky that my boss is super cool and I can wear shorts and chappals to office, but I’m pretty sure there are a lot of designers who can’t do that.

How difficult is it to separate yourself from others, given the industry’s competitive nature?
It’s quite difficult. You consistently need to be ahead of the times. In fact, it’s like Gaurav says himself, he just doesn’t follow trends. There are “forecasts”; there are books that designers study and they make clothes according to that, but I personally believe- and so does Gaurav- that what really separates you from the rest is making something that you think will run and making sure that it is successful. For example, for Amazon India Fashion Week, he made tuxedos- nothing new, but they had metallic embroidery. If you have a look at it, you’ll say that it looks brilliant on a model, but you wouldn’t be sure if any person would buy that. His partners said that it isn’t a commercial piece at all, so why make it? But it’s doing so well, we’ve got so many orders on it; we have an entire campaign around it for the boost of the sale. So basically, if you think you can sell something, go for it. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. If it does, it’s great. Work hard enough to make sure that it will. Just do something that you believe in. It doesn’t matter what others say.

Is your style any different from Gaurav’s?
Oh it’s completely different. We actually have a lot of clashes when we’re working on designs. Two weeks before the Amazon India Fashion Week show we were at loggerheads completely; there were heated arguments in the office. I’d say, “that thing is so ugly, how will I market it? It will be so difficult for me to promote it” and you know, I’m still really young, I have very little experience, so when he started explaining those things to me, it really made sense. But yes, personal style, and otherwise, we’re quite different. His personal style is really dandy and dark, and I’m more into street style, Italian, and the sort. While I’m really subtle and minimalistic, and he’s bling and loud and goth.

How did you end up working for him?
It was because we both are creative people; yes we have creative differences, but it’s just another opinion. There are so many things that we do have in common. Another thing about him is, while so many Indian designers keep making the same things consistently and it’ll always be the same floral print and embroidery, Gaurav’s clothes are completely different. His clothes have a really cool aspect- like the women’s tuxedos and jackets that he makes, no other Indian designer in the same league as him makes those. That’s what makes him stand apart, and that’s what I really like about him, and that’s what I do with my blog too: I do styles and shoots that nobody else does. I don’t just go to Zara or Forever 21 and just pick out clothes and put them on my blog. I don’t do DIY, but it’s just putting a lot of different things together, be it layering up in summers, or pairing dhotis with Italian suits. So just trying to stand apart, but not trying too hard either, just ensuring there’s a balance, so yeah that’s how I ended up here, that’s how we both connect.

Like the tuxedos that you mentioned, do you think people get a similar impression for most fashion clothing: the fact that it’s just made for models and for people who’re really slim, and not for anyone who’s on the heavier side?
See, that’s definitely true, but most designers know that while models are going to be wearing those clothes on ramps, customers are hardly ever as fit or slim, so they definitely do keep in mind that customers don’t come in model sizes. Yes, we make those clothes that appear to be only for fit or thin women, but then it depends on the silhouette of the garment, and also the intelligence of the customer. Some of them do understand what looks good on them- which colors and silhouettes work for them, if they’re on the heavier side. So designers do understand that and make clothes accordingly. Then again, I can’t say that I’d expect to see someone who’s on the heavier side, in a tuxedo; but if the person’s able to carry it off, I’m pretty sure I’ll be wrong.

Do you think fashion and art fit together?
Yes, of course. One example would be in November last year when Gaurav celebrated ten years of his anniversary and we had this celebration (it was also to celebrate the opening of his Bombay store in Kala Ghoda.) We held an exhibition, called Paradigm Shift, which was really successful. Ten years of his work was displayed in the museum, along with art pieces, which just went with his clothes. It was really expensive art from early 1900s by Indian painters. It was just such a well-put together gallery.

How different do you think India’s fashion scene is, compared to the scene all over the world?
Compared to international standards, it’s in the gutter. It’s sad how a lot of the designers blatantly and blindly copy international designers. Even the lesser known designers are more than happy to just copy international designers and label them and make models parade around in them and claim that it’s their own. But there’s also another thing, in today’s day of globalization, if a designer’s getting lace from one place, it’s quite possible that that isn’t the only place he’s getting the lace from- he could be getting it from the same place Elie Saab or Zuhair Murad gets it from; and people look at it and they want to sound intelligent, so they just go, “Hey, this is a total copy, it isn’t original” whereas in reality it’s just the same lace made by one supplier and two different designers sourced it, and their designs can obviously be completely different. The Indian fashion scene isn’t completely horrible or sad, but if I had to choose, I’d pick an international designer.

Why do you think men’s fashion ends up getting ignored?
A lot of designers just want to do women’s wear and commercially, that makes sense, yes. Also, men are usually just fine with whatever their wives or mothers or sisters buy for them, but yes the trend is changing.

What’s the first thing you look at in another person’s outfit?
Shoes. I actually style all my outfits according to the shoes I’d be wearing with that ensemble.

How do you strike a balance between your work life and your personal life?
My personal/ social life has actually taken a massive hit ever since I joined Gaurav. And by the time I get out of office, it’s too late to go out for dinner with someone. I’ve had to move from Gurgaon to West Delhi because my office is in Noida and commuting would be easier. I obviously talk to my friends over Facebook or Whatsapp, but I don’t get the time to make plans and go out with them. The only days I have off are Sundays, and I’m so exhausted that by the time I’m able to get up and out of bed, it’s too late.

What challenges did you face from deciding to start a fashion blog to actually reach this point?
One of the challenges that is still there, is a photographer. I’ve been lucky to have friends who’ve been really supportive, but when I’m wearing the clothing myself, it’s really hard to find a photographer. One of my friends, who’s also my blog partner, Dhruv Sethi, is a brilliant photographer. He’s amazing, but it becomes really difficult, because if I want to do a shoot within the next few days, I need to tell him atleast a week in advance, and he’s often not available, and that really affects the number of shoots and posts I’m able to do. Another thing was time management. Also, regularity. Sometimes my work gets too hectic and I’m literally too tired to even instagram one photo. So there’s no regular posts.

What’s the most recent notable trend to reappear? Do you like it?
It’s not really a trend, but it’s something that men are doing- wearing chappals. Yes, I’m biased because I love shoes, but I really think that bathroom slippers should just be limited to your house. I think it goes for women too. I mean, you can easily trip and fall. I know they’re comfortable, but can you not.
Also, color blocking. A lot of people think that they can wear any contrasting colors together, and they’re both equally loud, and hey, they’re doing color blocking. Literally? Yes. But you aren’t doing color blocking, that’s a total faux-pas there. You need to understand that when you do color blocking, you need to use two contrasting colors in the sense that one needs to be a little subtler, and one needs to be louder.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I either see myself going in for my MBA, which would be in Luxury Brand Management; or working with an international designer; or working with an e-commerce website, handling PR, digital media, marketing, and the sort- and obviously still running my blog.

Is there something that you’re currently working on?
Currently, I’m trying to get myself featured in GQ India. That was my main goal when I started my blog. I think I’m on the road to that, because in June I got featured in Femina’s Annual Men’s Issue.

What do you think is more important, the idea or its execution?
Obviously, the idea is important, but execution is a little more important. You really need to work hard and with the same amount of zest, be it a small project or a big one, and the way you execute things matters a lot.

Has it ever happened that you started working on something with a certain picture in your mind and ended up with something entirely different?
Oh, definitely! That happens quite a lot. When you’re brainstorming about the next campaign you want to run, you do a lot of hit and trial. There have been times when I wanted to do a thematic period editorial on the blog- the pre Independence era, but I probably ended up using the dhotis for that shoot as a street-style theme.

What’s the most important thing you learnt along the way?
One of the things, was to study hard in college, but work harder. Another thing is that I wasn’t ever much of a listener. I used to think that I’m intelligent enough, and so completely correct in whatever I was saying, but that wasn’t true. You really need to listen to other people. They could be younger to you with greater experience, or older than you, so you need to listen to whatever people are saying, and weigh out the pros and cons of everything. Also, multitasking. For my job, the description was simply digital media, but I’m doing other things too, because trying out new things simultaneously, regardless of whether you think you’ll like it or not, is what will help you grow, at the end of the day.

How good were you with multitasking when you started off?
Not to brag, but I think I was pretty good. Sometimes, yes it used to get really hectic. There have been times when I’d been making presentations for work till 4.30 a.m. in the morning after having a hard day in college, with an impending exam at 9 a.m. the next day, so yeah. I was lucky to have passed without having to study a lot.

If you could travel back to any decade in fashion, which would it be?
I think, probably the ‘90s in India itself, and make Anil Kapoor and Sunil Shetty and all the other male stars with hairy chests button up, cause that’s an eyesore.

If not fashion, what?
Definitely something in the creative field such as advertisement or marketing, but not hardcore finance.

What would the last line of your autobiography be?
“And with that final piece, he finished the biggest collection of shoes in the world.”

What advice would you have for others trying to start a men’s fashion blog?
A lot of bloggers, once a couple of months in, start thinking that they’re good enough to be judging everything, but they need to be a little more intelligent about it. It’s important to know when the right time to start quoting money would be. Also, you need to do things others aren’t doing; you need to stand out. But then again, you need to ensure that there’s a balance between crazy and wearable. When you’re posting a shoot, you need to make sure it’s accompanied with a write up, because you may be catering to people who don’t know a lot about fashion, and also it’s important to not be cocky because it’s quite probable that a lot of people who’re reading your blog are intelligent and know about fashion, and they might just end up laughing at you.

If you were a pizza delivery guy, how would you benefit from scissors?
If I was a pizza delivery guy, I’m pretty sure I’d be working with a company that has an incentive policy, so if I had a pair of scissors, I’d probably burst the other guys’ bikes' tires, so that my deliveries are on time and I get promoted sooner than the others.

If you were a box of cereal, which one would you be?
Definitely not Froot Loops. I don’t like Oreo O’s, so not that. I don’t eat healthy, so not Muesli either.
I’d be Chocos.

What would your three sentences in “Two truths and a lie” be?
1.In every exam in college, I’ve cheated.
2.In every job that I’ve done, I’ve always messed up.
3.I’ve never kissed a guy.

What’s your least favorite thing about yourself?
I love food a bit too much.

Is it important for you to leave a mark on this world?
Not really. It’s important for me to have lived a happy life. I can’t care less about the world.

comments powered by Disqus

From The Blog

Raise For Rise

— For the most part, boiling everything down to metaphors and shiny words fails the actual intention. Nonetheless, if Ms. Seema Chawla, from Lucknow, is a master ceramist, then her class of eighty slum kids is clay. And if her class is a garden, then she is the gardener who toils in the heat and provides for water (see: uniforms, bags,... Read More

Upcoming Poetry Meets

— Come, let us talk. Let us talk about how that warm cup of coffee last night left you feeling so cold, or how you wish pixels could move and people could stay. Let us dissect why you’ve stopped asking questions, why you dreamt your ex was a bearded lady at the Piccadilly Circus, and why you have a John Green-esque... Read More

8 Links You Need To Revisit To Gain Perspective on Terrorism

— 2015 has been a dreadful year, at least if you look at it from the terrorism angle. There have been over a hundred terror attacks in the past eleven months alone, if you are to believe websites such as Wikipedia or The Religion of Peace. To shed some much needed perspective, we’ve combined a list of eight websites... Read More

5 Things India Must Celebrate This November

— It’s that time of the year again- the streets are lit up with little lamps and the chaos of crackers seems to take over the atmosphere. As India gears up for the Diwali season and the celebrations begin in full swing, we think that India could definitely add a few more occasions to the list to keep the spirit of... Read More

Conversations of Verse, 21.08.15

— Barrels, Vasant Vihar, was where the next convention of us jittery poets took place. It was nice to see the crowd gradually enlarging, which also greatly contributed to the cozy atmosphere created by dim lighting and agreeable music in just the right decibel. The whole place was teeming with people hardly able to contain their words because of the weight... Read More

Conversations of Verse

— Of poetry, magic, and more. Situated innocuously at the interior of a beautifully flowery lawn, one amongst many in Delhi, was The Potbelly Rooftop Café: a nice, upbeat, fairly regular place where one could hang out and have a couple of coffees with friends or familiars. However, today was unlike any other day, and the stage was set for... Read More

Changing Times

— Hello, readers. The ’Zine is back with, well, kind of a bang (excuse the cliché). There are a number of things planned for you all, the first and foremost being that you’ll get to see a different face of The ’Zine with the same body but different body parts (decode this metaphor!) We’re renovating and redesigning, and who doesn’t love... Read More