A chat with Sounak Sen Barat, founder of House of Three

Sounak Sen Barat is the design director and founder of House of Three, a label based in Bangalore. Launched in 2009 by La Mere designs, it has four distinct couture lines including prêt, diffusion, menswear and home decor. Drawing inspiration from aspects of a modern lifestyle like new age music, graphics, modern art and architecture, Sounak elaborates on his expansive views on fashion and choice...


On the House of Three coming together...
House of Three launched in September 2008. Post a decade at Madura Garments and the conception and launch of Van Heusen Woman, it was the organic next step. The idea was to do something fresh and new, bringing together experience with the technical know-how of design management, supply chain sourcing and finance. There was always a part of me that said whatever we do it has to be soulful. Clothes reflect the mind of the wearer but it has a deeper purpose, beyond physicality. Can fashion also be an enabler of empathy? Can there be a balance between being soulful in its narrative or design and making process, while also being sharp and trendy?

His process as creative director of House of Three...
Design is the joyful process of first researching and channeling and then eliminating; taking that experience and creating something that is a balance of form, function and aesthetic expression. At House of Three we believe the purpose of design is to primarily solve a problem. Self-expression comes second. Whether the problem is to do with fashion, clothes, products, furniture, space or cars, you should solve it in style, leaving your aesthetic stamp on it. A purely functional solution isn't good design. It should also follow principles of geometry, proportion and balance. Additionally, it must invoke a certain reaction from your audience, no matter what you make. It should also have your design philosophy, reflected in every aspect of your work. Lastly, it has to be tasteful. At House of Three it is finding balance through a marriage of contrasts. A confluence of structure with fluidity, of transparency with opacity, or of balance between the materials used and their use. We could combine khadi with French Chantilly lace to create this marriage of contrast, for example, and make a couture gown fit for any red carpet.

As for creative influences, life reflects and imitates fashion and vice versa. Sometimes we are inspired by Art Deco architecture and infuse its form with the fluidity of Hindustani classical music. Sometimes inspiration comes from the innocent doodles by children, like in our collection Aiko. Or like our Asliha collection, which is drawn from the sharp forms of Mughal dagger print, where we married traditional Persian dagger filigree motifs with modern western silhouettes. House of Three is a marriage of contrasts: integrally Indian but contemporary and global in appeal, with a message that speaks about tolerance and acceptance.

FW18’s hottest trends...
The trends in general are norm core loose silhouettes and a lot of 80s inspired silhouettes in western wear for women. Another rising trend in the apparel sector is a genuine endeavour by designers and brands to revisit old, authentic heritage in its purest forms. Not just with a revival of handloom textiles or embroidery techniques, materials and motifs, but by reflecting on the essence of a bygone era. This has helped educate and engage larger audiences, spreading awareness of India's vast, versatile and rich design languages. Design that was otherwise restricted to a typical, blingy, Bollywood driven stereotype. True luxury is always subtle, it never screams for attention. There has suddenly been a resurgence of that sensibility and I hope it stays forever.


Tips to be on trend this season...
One should rather stay in style than on trend. Trends are a marketing tool of the industry to ensure that consumers always consume. Create demand, produce, someone consumes, create fresh demand for something else, and the consumer chases the new "in" thing, discarding the old. The impact of that has been severe on the planet and our wellbeing.

The need of the hour is for us to consume responsibly. Before you buy the next trendy, fast fashion top online at a discount, probe and understand how it was made, where, and under what conditions. If plastic is on trend now, after 6 months when you've discarded it for being out of fashion, it will eventually sit in a landfill for 200+ years. Ask yourself, what chemicals went into making it, what happened to the waste that was created, where it ended up ... in the nearest river? Or was it recycled and retreated? Who stitched the garment? Instead, why not wear handloom, which creates a much, much smaller carbon footprint? Why not buy locally? Why not invest in a classic piece that lasts? Not only will you be helping weavers and other communities, but you will also own a little bit of our inherited wealth as a country rich in textile and design!  As Indians, we must ensure we continue to pass on our incredible heritage. Modern, technologically-sound, being ‘with it’ on a global stage and being rooted in heritage can all happen at the same time.

Responsible, ethical consumption isn't a trend or even a style. It is the new way of life that the world will migrate to in the decades to come. And the coolest thing you can do is be among the first initiators of the movement. Imagine if 1.4 billion people in this country changed the way they consumed! That's one fifth of humanity's problems solved!

Personal style icons...
Rajmata Gayatri Devi for her ethereal grace whilst being so modern. What she wore was conventionally traditional but the way she carried herself had such an eternal elegance and modern charm. Audrey Hepburn, for the same reason. These two icons represented that era. Eternally classical and spunky, for those times, while also exuding a quiet, subtle grace. There was nothing flashy, nothing out of place or balance about them, which is why they still remain relevant today. They are icons I always fall back on as my eternal muses. How would they have dressed had they been young women today?

In the present, I like Konkona Sen as she exudes that same old world grace. I also like Kalki (Koechlin), Radhika Apte and Deepika's (Padukone) versatility in their style statements. They can also get into any skin with ease and always blend old school charm with modern quirky coolness.

Sounak Sen Barat has worn different hats - design, brand creation and styling - in his 15 year journey in the Indian fashion industry. A graduate of NIFT, New Delhi, his interests and pursuits in music, interior design, architecture and graphic art have influenced his design sensibilities. With House of Three, Sounak has now created a platform to articulate his unique vision for the contemporary Indian - a decidedly western mould with a very Indian soul.

Find House of Three online and on Instagram

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