A Clean Aesthetic
The dapper Raghavendra Rathore needs barely any introduction – his attention to bandhgalas has made sure that the slightly austere style has become an essential part of a groom’s trousseau, and naughty as it is to think it, the designer’s own debonair charm and regal carriage have played no small part in making the traditional jacket a bit of a sex symbol in the fashion world, causing Italian luxury suiting brands to introduce the style for the Indian market. Yet the Rathore bandhgala remains coveted – the story goes that the designer was once approached by a woman who informed him that her husband was dying and that his last wish was for a Rathore bandhgala. Might be hearsay, but all versions of the story end with Rathore fulfilling that wish! Examining a bandhgala is almost a spiritual experience – the cut, structure, the shaped facings with precise piping and lining have been known to inspire reverence in fashion students. Jodhpurs, the riding trousers named for his hometown and a story in their own right, have also had many a moment in the spotlight with Rathore. The latest to be given the Rathore treatment is a line of understated shirts in fine Giza cotton with an emphasis on customisation, with the addition of the barest hints of colour and embellishment in the form of discreet crests and motifs – the kind of shirt that brings back the glory days of menswear. “My approach to design is to use the craft to create the look, whether it is in fashion, product design, interiors or any other expression,” explains Rathore. “The various design genres are blending with evermore ease, as the global community blurs its sensibilities towards the cultural divide, different tastes, likes and dislikes are all blending to form something new, something more indigenous,” he says, when explaining the success of his cleaner aesthetic in a market with a propensity for bling.
Rajesh Pratap Singh
A Panache For Pintucks
Famously reclusive Rajesh Pratap Singh, Pratap to intimates and everyone else, is shockingly unrecognisable in his new short-haired avatar. The rather precise pintuck detailing that is a signature of his work is easy to mistake for a less laborious textured fabric, but the true Pratap connoisseur knows his pintucks for the engineering genius they are. The deceptively simple styling is a favourite of many a style maven, including Tina Tahiliani Parikh who proclaimed that at one point she lived only in Pratap and Hidden Harmony. “I don’t know if I would call myself a ‘minimalist’,” he says. “We just do our own thing, and aren’t very worried about fitting in. It wasn’t a decision that I had to go out and make. I just started doing what I liked. The way I saw things, bridal wear seemed to always be made best by traditional craftsmen and I just didn’t have the time to try and do it.” He insists that he doesn’t think he has a signature product or piece, but the pintucks beg to differ. However, he admits with a laugh, that uniforms may just be what he is most famous for, cheekily referencing the looks he created for an airline. Pratap’s jackets have gotten so popular recently that the design team is now focused on exploring jacket constructions. He moves on so quickly, he explains that he can’t claim a signature piece, but he loves working with new textiles and earlier this year, was named Woolmark’s first Ambassador of India. As with all designers, Pratap still gets outlandish requests from people unaware of his aesthetic. “We usually politely refuse,” he informs us, “and we don’t do weddings, but just once this girl forced her way in and absolutely insisted that we design a wedding outfit for her. So I did that and the team enjoyed it, it was different for us, but I don’t think we’ll ever do it again!”
A Commitment to Tradition
Softspoken Sanjay Garg has been a quiet force on the textile front for over 16 years now. His elegant saris transform traditional colours into the height of minimalist sophistication, the names of the colours (totaiyi, sharbati, anandi et al) evoking that delightful memory of speaking with the family retainer who persisted in calling you gudiya when you were well in your 20s. Starting with the traditional Chanderi fabrics, his oeuvre includes Mashru and Benarasi silk, and this month Ensemble’s flagship store showcases his Berang collection of Akola printed saris as part of ‘Sartorial Sari’ – their ode to the handcrafted sari. “His motifs are very Indian but his art works are contemporary, making his pieces irresistible. The collection, with its precise dot-drop pattern, is sublime and very sophisticated. What he is doing to revive the sari is truly commendable and inspiring,” says Tina Tahiliani Parikh. The gentleman from Mubarakpur, Uttar Pradesh, now plies his trade from a discreet farmhouse in Chhattarpur, Delhi, meeting his select clientele by appointment only and retailing out of Ensemble and a few outlets of Good Earth. As for where he sees his brand fitting into the largely bridal slant that the Indian fashion scene has, Garg says, “It is different visually. A hundred years ago people were fighting for basic necessities – roti, kapda, makaan. Now people are well-travelled, the economy is doing well. People like to show that they have ‘made it’ and try to wear whatever they have at weddings. But in the minimalist view, they wear what feels right to them and they are not trying to show their bank balance. There is a new tribe that doesn’t follow kitsch. I wanted to emphasise something completely unique or different. Someone wanted owls on a sari. If someone wants birds, that doesn’t mean I’ll print a hen. That’s why I’m not in Fashion Weeks. Their definition of different is different from my definition. I have a small client list,” he ends, making us chortle with his slightly exasperated tone.