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How stylist Pushpak Sen's work is tied to Kolkata's streets and people

Pushpak Sen, the non-binary fashion influencer and stylist on drawing energy and inspiration for work from people around him

Stylist Pushpak Sen.(Courtesy Pushpak Sen.)

By Rush Mukherjee

LAST PUBLISHED 15.10.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

In 2016, Pushpak Sen founded the menswear blog thebongmunda. He only intended it to be a hobby at first, started due to his interest in men’s fashion. Fast-forward to 2021 and 2022, and pictures of the non-binary influencer wearing saris on the streets of Florence went viral, and articles about him followed.

Since then, after completing his course in fashion communications and marketing and returning home to Kolkata, Sen works as a stylist for brands such as Tanishq, Calvin Klein, homegrown jewellery brand Earthaments, Fastrack and sari label Suta. He has also been nominated twice for Upcoming Fashion Influencer of the Year by Cosmopolitan India Blogger Awards and featured in the GQ best dressed list.

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In an interview with Lounge, Sen spoke about how he does research for his projects, needing to be in a physical workspace to get in the zone, and having ‘heart-attack’ moments rather than ‘eureka’ moments at work. Edited excerpts.

Also Read: Access to silence and nature is a must at workplaces: Natasha Sachdeva

Describe your current workspace to us.

My workspace isn’t just one static location. My research is done mostly while I commute, on the streets of Kolkata– from the roadside stalls at Gariahat and New Market with their colourful wares, to people on the metro, to museums and cafes. When I ideate for a campaign, my workspace is basically wherever I can sit for two minutes in peace and quiet with my laptop! I head to wherever the brands and vendors are, when I’m developing the concept. And finally, it’s at whatever location the shoot happens to be in – from a Kolkata rooftop, to the courtyard of an old house, to a studio.

How would you define your daily relationship with these spaces?

I know a lot of people say that work is their second home, but I can never feel like that. I’ve realised that the only way for me to create quality work is compartmentalisation. Home, for me, is where I’m supposed to relax and lay on the bed, from where I’m talking to you right now. I have to be physically in the zone when I work, surrounded people who are not relaxing. A chill café can never be my workspace. I draw energy and get ideas from people around me at work.

On location at one of Sen's studio shoots. (Courtesy Pushpak Sen)

Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have while at work.

I don’t know about eureka moments, but I certainly have some heart-attack moments. The fashion genre that I do – styling or creative direction – it’s not rocket science, but at every shoot something goes wrong: a necklace breaks, a sari tears…and then you have to do jugaad to fix it, which is the most fun part. Sometimes I’ll break off a small wire from something around me to fix jewellery, sometimes I’ll change the draping style to hide a flaw. You always have to have something up your sleeve.

What's the one thing that has always been at your workspace over the years. Why?

My suitcases! They’re the exact same suitcases that have been with me for years and they even went to Italy with me: a huge black American Tourister, a sky blue medium sized one and a tiny grey one. I literally work out of them, and my entire life is in them. The tiny grey one is so old that it should be given to an antique store but I couldn’t care less!

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Rush Mukherjee is a writer based in Kolkata.

Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces.