The mention of Hemant Trevedi instantly brings to mind the gowns worn by beauty-pageant queens Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra during their crowning. The ace designer, who returned to India from Australia in the early ’80s to make a career in fashion, was on top of his game in the ’90s and early 2000s. But post his near-fatal accident, which put him in a coma for almost a month, Hemant slowed down his high-flying career to quite an extent. Even though he continued working and mentoring fresh talent, he has maintained a rather low profile in the past decade or so. Here, he gets candid about his reasons for staying out of the limelight, the respect he commands in the industry, and more.
You have been in the industry for so long, but over the past few years, you’ve been keeping a low profile. Why is that?
I have chosen to keep a low profile because my philosophy in life has always been that why scream when you can whisper, and still be heard. The fact that I’m still around after so many years — I returned to India in 1979 — must mean that I must be doing something right. I guess I’ve been there, done that, and today, I don’t need the name, the fame, and I don’t play games.
At the time you met with a near-fatal accident, you were doing very well. Post that, was it a conscious decision to gradually slow down?
I may have been doing very well at the time, but my policy has always been — let’s not be in a hurry to get all the way there. I have the power to last, and I have the respect. I’ve always felt that people live for three things — fame, money or respect. The latter is what I really adhere to. If my work is getting respect, I want to do things quietly, and without any hype. I don’t want to be a page 3 person; I never have, and I would never want to. I’m embarrassed by it. I want my work to do the talking for me.
Does it bother you that Indian fashion is greatly dependent on celebs today?
Completely. In my years of directing a popular beauty pageant, I’ve been able to groom all the international winners of this country, and today, they are leading actresses. But I feel that the tendency, where only Bollywood and cricket are important in this country, and nothing else matters, is a concern to me.
Over the years, what are the changes that you have witnessed in the Indian fashion industry?
It has become wonderful. The interest level in Indian fashion has grown manifold. Look at the number of design colleges that are mushrooming in the country. I’m happy that I’m a mentor at some of the leading collages in Delhi, Pune and Mumbai. This is something that keeps me going. New talent entering the industry is wonderful. It’s great to have so many designers. I just wish that they don’t only concentrate on the west. They should understand that they are Indian designers. They should draw from their own land, and create their own craft.
There has been a growing ‘intolerance’ in the country, and several people are voicing their opinions on the subject. As a creative person, what is your take on the same?
I’m extremely alarmed by what’s going on. The intolerance level, on several fronts, is something that is questionable. I, on one level, agree with creative talent who might want to return something for their own reasons. But at the end of the day, we all have to survive, and we all have to keep going. That is something that I have to adhere to as well. I might not necessarily agree to it. But, I live in this land.
You are participating in the upcoming Rajasthan Heritage Week. But we haven’t seen you participate in the two biggest fashion weeks in the country — one in Delhi, and the other one in Mumbai — in a long time.
What is the purpose of having fashion weeks in this country, if we don’t have enough buyers, and if we don’t have enough production happening? It only becomes a media-hyped event with celebs sitting in the front row. I was honoured to be part of the fashion week grand finale in Mumbai in 2003. I shared the platform with (designer)Wendell Rodricks. It was wonderful to get a standing ovation, to get that kind of respect. But today, at the end of the day, do I only wish to be part of the hype? No.
Who are your favourite designers from the younger crop?
It is so difficult to pick one, because look at the number of people who are coming out of fashion schools nowadays. But one person who comes to mind, who I also tutored, is Payal Khandwala. I love her flow of fabric, her usage of Indian fabrics and her understanding of the craft.
Besides fashion, what are you currently diverting your energies to?
I’m building a paradise home. I’ve been in the process of doing that for the past three-four years. One day, I might just turn it into an educational institution, and taking from my surname, I will call it Vedic.
Do you have any regrets in life?
I don’t know if it could be called regret, but sometimes I find it difficult to understand who is genuine and who’s not, who is real and who is not. As a man who always follows the book, and has certain principles in life, I can sometimes be too trusting of people, while they look at things only for their growth. I’m a great giver, and not a taker.