Rohitava Banerjee Sheds Light on Turkey in His Stunning Second Collection
The shining moment at Nolcha Shows started with an imperial, pleated, high-collared dress that brought the room to a stand-still. Like wearable origami, Rohitava Banerjee made every fold, seam and stitch of his collection the pinnacle of detail.
Talking silenced to whispers and all gazes transfixed on the silk taffeta and gold zari embroidery. Astonished gasps were the only sounds heard over the somber instrumental music.
The woman next to me sighed, “Wow.” The next look came by. “Wow.” Then the next. “I’m done.”
In his third year at Parsons and his second showing at New York Fashion Week, Banerjee has already set a high precedent for his career at age 19. His designs are just a taste of the residual effect in his voice.
As he did last season, he draws poetic meaning behind his designs by intertwining historical context and current world events.
For Spring/Summer 2017, he ventured to Turkey and organized the presentation by five major sultans of the early Ottoman Empire.
“When people go beyond the reaches and do something that’s superhuman, that’s when they truly become legendary,” he said, “they were the ultimate muses for that reason.”
The first section highlighted Osman Gazi and visualized the poem Osman’s Dream with growing tree motifs to symbolize the rise of his empire. The second section focused on his son, Orhan Gazi, and featured sharp, regimented shapes like the weapons of his strong military. Navy and dark reds represented dawn, a metaphor for the beginnings of the empire.
Section three narrated Mehmed the Conqueror’s reign and fused Ottoman and Byzantine culture in the embroidery. Sky blue and light red represented the bright morning sky. The lines in section four reflected Selim I’s cruel and rigid personality, while the colors turned to sunset hues of blue, red and orange.
The final section told of the longest reigning sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, who organized the Ottoman law system. The embroidery mimicked legal scripture and the color palette darkened to midnight shades of red, black and navy as the empire reached its Golden Age.
Ultimately, Banerjee wanted to use this historical appreciation to continue the current conversation. “Turkey in the modern world today is extremely relevant,” he said.
He sees the country in the news every day, but it’s not usually in positive light. “Turbulent is almost an understatement,” he said. “With everything that’s going on over there, I feel like they need to feel more powerful and strong in their nationality.”
The sultans are the conduit for taking back the country’s power. “I just wanted to celebrate the strength of the Turkish people, their culture and the beauty of their work and art,” he said.
This is a common theme in Banerjee’s designs thus far. “If [people] start to understand the overall story that I’m trying to tell with my work, that would be an honor,” he said.
For his debut Autumn/Winter 2016 collection, he depicted Greece’s transcendent ancient era and its recent economic downfall.
“Real people have the best stories,” said Banerjee.
The tireless designer has already sketched the silhouettes and embroidery for his next collection. “I’m just very excited to get right to work on that and see what happens next,” he said. Not to mention, he had homework to return to after the show.
Banerjee encourages young designers to be true to themselves. “I don’t know if I’ve been around long enough to give advice,” he said, “but really just follow your dreams.”