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April 30, 2017

Angelique Singh And Her Daughters Talk About Blending The Old With The New

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photographs by Pranav Dhoot. Hair snd Make-Up: Natasha Bissau, Tangerine — The Boutique Salon

Their aesthetics are steeped in the traditions of Rajasthan…

In the Pink City that exudes Rajput hospitality, the legacy of its forefathers is valued and nurtured. Continuing the tradition of hosting visitors with the famed flair of yesteryears, Angelique Singh, along with her husband Pradip, has re-created a slice of a bygone era in Jaipur.

I drive into the Royal Heritage Haveli — originally built by His Highness, Madho Singhji, and now owned by Maharaj Jai Singh and step out into the courtyard where the waters of a fountain dance merrily in the sunlight. Pradip guides me to where Angelique and her daughters Shivangani and Shambhavi are preparing for our interaction — taking me up several steps and past facades of rooms that reflect the local ethos in their design and décor.

Chiffon is clearly the flavour of the morning and they swish into a suite, ready to take me through the royal influences that have shaped their sartorial sensibilities. Angelique says her grand-aunt, the elegant Gayatri Devi, has played a big role in defining her aesthetic. She recalls, “I was very close to her. She was the epitome of style; never over-the-top; the way she carried herself was impeccable. My aunt, Thakurani Sneh Govind Singh, brought me up. She and her husband, my maternal uncle, were very particular about the way we dressed, even though it would be just the family at home. But, ultimately, it was not just about physical beauty, but about how one conducted oneself.”

It is a gracious way of life that has been passed on from one generation to another. Shivangani, who has launched her own design label Kesya — derived from the Rajasthani word kesariya meaning saffron — states, “Growing up in an ethos that held art and culture in the highest esteem steered me towards design. I love working with the master craftsmen here, as we look at reviving old techniques of making hand-painted enamel products; in my own way contributing to the preservation of age-old traditions.”

Shambhavi’s work is also steeped in the state’s heritage. Involved with the running of the boutique hotel, she says, “Watching my parents being exceptional hosts, working with traditional techniques of restoration to revive the culture — it’s an honour to have the opportunity to execute and carry forward this legacy at the Royal Heritage Haveli. My grand-uncle Maharaj Jai Singh (Angelique’s uncle) has always grounded me with his humility, and my family has imbibed in me the value of giving back to society.”

Design — in its different expressions — plays an important role in their lives. For Shivangani, a student of art and design, creative expression is very important. She says, “The focus of my work is to make tasteful, yet innovative offerings that blend the traditional and the modern. Many of my pieces amalgamate family stories or age-old heirlooms with lines that are fashionable in the contemporary sense. More than royalty it is the accompanying heritage that influences my work. Stories of grandeur, the arts and architecture, the distinct styles of different generations are something that I try and reflect in my creations. My own space has a mix of vintage photographs and modern art, while my wardrobe is a blend of contemporary designers and classic chiffon saris.”

Her mother Angelique points out that her spaces — in her home and in the haveli — reflect her inner sensibilities. She states, “Both areas are classic in nature. I prefer cleaner lines. I have inherited many beautiful paintings and sculptures. Wanting to make the haveli different from the many beautiful ones in Jaipur, the colours used in all the rooms are not the typical kitsch Rajasthani hues. We have used pastels and have steered clear of the done-to-death block prints.” The girls admit to their mother’s influence. They say, “She is the epitome of elegance and grace. We have grown up discovering trunks full of our grandmother’s clothes and customised shoes to match every sari!”

They believe that first impressions always leave a lasting effect. Shambhavi says, “I grew up around chiffon saris and pearl strings, from my grandmother to my mother and now my sister. I learned never to have a pleat out of place for it is important to be always well-turned-out.” This is an opinion that is underscored by Shivangani who maintains, “Even before you say a word, judgements about your personality are made just by looking at you. How you carry yourself says a lot about who you are. Fashion, to me is self-expression; I always choose the tasteful over what’s trendy!”

For Angelique, her personal journey has made her life meaningful. She recalls, “The Rajmata was very keen that girls got educated and she started a school. My mother was one of its early students. I travelled out of India from a very young age and learnt so much more about different lifestyles in terms of art, culture, architecture, music and more. And, I remember how even in Delhi — where I grew up — my father would drag me to see every ballet and concert; I have been to Zubin Mehta’s performances, Bharat Natyam recitals and learnt to appreciate all genres — and all this gets reflected in my lifestyle.”

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