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The BoF Podcast: Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Deepika Padukone on India’s Astonishing Wedding Industry

To mark the recent launch of BoF’s latest print issue celebrating ‘Modern Entrepreneurs,” Imran Amed sits down with leading Indian bridal designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee and actress Deepika Padukone to discuss India’s $50 billion bridal market.
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MUMBAI, India — When Deepika Padukone was due to get married to fellow movie star Ranveer Singh, bridal fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee was the first to know.

"I always knew I wanted to be a Sabyasachi bride," says Padukone, whose meticulous planning for the extravagant affair scared Mukherjee on account of her extreme organisational savvy. From the food (which entailed a total of 12 tastings) to the moodboards to the jewellery, "Deepika knew everything," he says.

Remarkably, details of Mukherjee's bridal outfit plans for Padukone were kept secret — even from his staff — for six months, using the unlikely codename of "Naomi Campbell" (the only 5'11 public figure he could think of).

For Mukherjee, India's wedding culture speaks to a psychology of "voyeurism and exhibitionism" that also underpins the principles of Instagram and Facebook. "Fashion has almost become like costume design," he says. The five or six-day event that constitutes a wedding also creates unique opportunities for India's emerging middle class to engage with couture. For the brides and grooms themselves, who are typically 21 and 23 years old respectively, "the journey of luxury usually starts with the wedding market."

However, weddings are not just integral to culture and family values in India; they're big business. The Indian wedding market is worth an estimated $50 billion a year, with projections to increase annually by 20 percent.

As such an important part of India's emerging fashion market, the wedding industry is inextricable from the shifting cultural and political landscape of the country. With Narendra Modi's recent re-election, and limited progress in LGBTQ rights such as legal marriage, there is the prospect of continued economic growth and social conservatism. However, Mukherjee believes that in the world's largest democracy with economic growth comes "empowerment on many levels," through which "people can start making social changes on their own."

Regarding the right to same-sex marriage, “I don’t think we should even be waiting for that time," says Mukherjee, "for that time is now. Not letting two people come together legally, I think, is a violation of human rights." In a similar vein, Padukone believes that "we should not even allow ourselves to even be in this place where somebody else dictates how and with whom you want to spend the rest of your lives."

As two of the most significant names in India's burgeoning creative industries, Padukone and Mukherjee share more than just the experience of planning a wedding. Both have openly talked about their struggles with severe depression and, at the peak of their respective careers, they are tipped for global fame.

Rather than starting out making a name for themselves in the West, Padukone and Mukherjee are turning to global visibility after establishing themselves within India, with Padukone appearing at Cannes, the Met Gala and on the cover of American Vogue, and Mukherjee recently expanding in to jewellery and looking to "create a global beauty brand out of India."

The country, he says, "is a force to be reckoned with... It would only be stupid for the world to ignore it."

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