He was adopted by a French couple during their visit to Pondicherry and was discovered by designer Jean Paul Gaultier that made his mark on the international fashion scene. But Satya Oblette, who has fronted campaigns for luxury fashion houses like Kenzo, Gio Ferrari and Dolce & Gabbana, says he had trouble getting work initially because of his “long black hair and complexion”.
“Modelling was not at all my thing… It actually started as a challenge between my friend and me… The start was very difficult for me as I had long black hair and people commented about my complexion and after a while I stopped getting work.
“Later, when I was in India in Pondicherry, I saw this dark Indian man with grey hair and a grey beard and that is where I got the idea from. I went to my hairstylist and showed him a picture I had taken of the man and told him to do the same thing with my hair and beard.
“When I entered Jean Paul Gaultier’s office after that they were all shocked at first but then he said ‘let’s work together’ and that is how it all started,” Oblette said during his visit to India last week.
In the late 1970s, he was adopted by a couple of French teachers who were overcoming the trauma of the death of their second son. Despite the painful start, the young Indian was blessed with destiny that opened doors of modelling and haute couture shows.
With over two decades of experience in the field, the 39-year-old, who has emerged as one of the most famous male faces of fashion internationally, is recognised as a dark, brooding man with spiky white hair.
He feels that “it is important that you don’t forget where you come from even if you are famous in a particular field” and added that today he is “ready to find my real mother and look for answers to the questions I have in my mind”.
“I would love to give myself to India because for the French I am the most Indian guy and, similarly for Indians, I am the most French Indian. I would like to be the bridge between the two cultures and try and bring the cultures together,” he said.
His last visit to India was in 2012 when he started writing his autobiography titled “My Life in Pieces” that was published in March. But he would love to gain more business opportunities in India as he feels that “the Indian economy is rising really well and a huge part of my heart is here”.
“I would love to work for Indian brands or designers. I would love for this to act as my bridge between Switzerland and India and it will also compel me to travel to India more than I currently do,” said Oblette by adding that he “would love to work in Bollywood movies and I am looking out for options”.
It’s not just fashion that is keeping him busy. The model is associated with many social causes too.
In 2012, Oblette joined the association A Child by the Hand, which helps children born into poor families.
Currently, he is the global ambassador for Heart for India Foundation, founded by Princess Francoise Sturdza, a businesswoman from Geneva. Internationally acclaimed Indian designer Pria Kataaria Puri is the Indian promoter and ambassador of the foundation.
“I met Princess Francoise Sturdza last year through a common friend and that is when they introduced the Heart for India Foundation (HFI) to me and showed me what they work for and how they contribute towards the Indian society.
“When I met Princess, she told me that the HFI is completing 10 years and now has a success rate of almost 95 percent. It is not something wherein the kids will gain education for a few years and then they will be left alone. It’s more like following the kids and making sure they are able to finish their studies and then work on their own,” said Oblette.