It’s summer and most everyone is getting out of town to escape the heat. But in the case of this jet-setting Fort Worth fashion designer, she wants more of it. Sheridan French traveled to Mumbai to meet with manufacturers — and experienced culture, food and rich colors which served as inspiration for her upcoming spring/summer 2014 collection. (And gave her an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ sort of retreat.)
Midnight in India. I have arrived! I am welcomed to the Taj Mahal Palace with a traditional greeting involving gorgeous flowers and lovely red powder placed onto the center of my forehead and I feel immersed in the culture already. The room’s entry way is the most gorgeous mixture of sea foam and teal and aqua I have ever laid eyes on, and the intricate woodwork on top of the mirrored doors is instant inspiration. But as I see the bed and all other thoughts escape my brain – I left Texas more than 24 hours earlier – so it is time to crash.
We reach the markets and it is actually better than I envisioned. Some areas are constructed with fabric and wood, but most of the structures are at least a few stories tall. I am distracted by the sheer number of people! We began looking for sequins and brass and everything else you can imagine, and I was keeping my eyes peeled for fabulous binding inspiration. (Found it!) I soon get lost in all of the color and before long it is time to head to the office.
A day to myself, exploring the city and paying close attention to the details of different architecture that could be translated to my designs. The simplest of features were cemented into my memory from the archways to the bright color of the lawns.
My mango education began today while having lunch with the man who sources my stones. Apparently the mangoes exported to the US are via Pakistan, and much to his dismay, their mangoes are far below the quality of Indian mangoes. He insisted they just do not have good contacts and Americans are completely deprived as a result. After tasting this Indian mango, I couldn’t have agreed more. I inhaled two in 20 minutes!
I then met the man who handles all of the metal work for my jewelry, his 9 fingers and all. He had come from his village 2 hours away, as most of these skilled craftsmen do, to meet me and discuss in person the specifics of fall. It worked out nicely because it was his wedding anniversary, and this allowed him to take his wife for a boat ride, something extremely special for any villager to come and do.
This was a very exciting day for me. My best by far, without question. We spent the morning in the markets and going through Spring/Summer 14 clothing, but here is the highlight: I was finally able to get to the workshop. We got out of the car and walked down the smaller road to get to it, I bumped into 27 goats along the way, and here we were. The pattern maker was there, the art designer that assisted with placement, or adjusting the size of certain areas of a design, and seven men sitting Indian style on the ground working to finish a couture level garment for a world famous European designer that had to be hand carried to Italy by 9pm that evening.
The energy was peaceful and calm and very relaxing, and I was instantly at home. To see (really SEE in person!!) these men that have helped me create my dream…it was amazing. Amazing is not even the word. It was touching. I felt so close to them, instantly. What a privilege to be able to meet these men that are so skilled at their crafts and thank them in person.
Working 16-18 hour days since I arrived finally caught up with me, and I began to come down with something a few days ago, so I took a look at the spa menu and booked a massage and facial. I walked in to the main entrance and was instantly relaxed.
I soon discovered that Indians do spa differently. It was very akin to the massage I had at my hostel in Bali two years ago. Draping doesn’t exist, and about 20 minutes in she was on the table, ON me, in some elaborate position I was envisioning to mirror a scene from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. That said, it was the best – THE BEST – massage I have ever had. I had no trouble ignoring the horns honking from the street, the car alarm going off and the barking dogs I heard, which is really saying something. Follow that massage by a facial where I swear she got every pore on my face as clear as Gwyneth’s, and I was feeling relaxed and more revitalized than ever.
Uneventful morning. Change of plans, so stayed in bed which was a great thing. Worked from my laptop with perfect pillow arrangement, listening to birds in the harbor outside and the soothing sound of waves crashing below. Completed the day with markets in the evening and a fantastic melon salad with soft cheese, and dumplings in broth – which was a fantastic end to my Indian getaway.
—Sheridan French, sheridanfrench.com