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I'm more about design than fashion: Raghavendra Rathore

You are well-known as a menswear designer. What prompted you to design womenswear, especially a bridal couture line after a gap of three-and-a-half years?
Menswear in India is very restrictive. It lacks the potency to grab attention because there is always a lack of variety. When we started our signature bandhgala jackets, we were very careful about its positioning. We wanted to create a unique identity there. It is not that we didn’t design womenswear, but this time, we wanted the collection to be more red-carpet couture than bridal. Our latest foray into bridal couture, we plan to expand our vision into several other aspects of design.

Raghavendra Rathore
Raghavendra Rathore

How do design sensibilities differ while working with womenswear?
To be honest, it is much easier for a menswear designer to do womeswear than the other way around because it helps us to be more innovative in terms of design and embroidery than menswear. The other important thing is that, for us, the karigars for both menswear and womenswear are the same. So, the intricate detailing required for a tailored tuxedo jacket for men is the same as embroidery patterns for women’s tailored polka-jackets. It follows the same presentation; both complement each other.

What was the idea behind the Autumn-Winter Bridal couture Line 2013?
The main idea behind the Autumn-Winter line was inspired by the rich cultural heritage of India. It was mostly about the idea of red carpet couture glam being a part of the future of Indian fashion. A lot of research went into selecting traditional motifs and patterns. The designs are best suited for a modern woman who is getting married in a place like Bali or even Monaco. The idea behind these designs is modern, but they will never lose their Indian touch.

What image do you keep in mind while designing for women?
It is frivolous to have a fixed image. The design always depends on the client’s requirements. There is tremendous research that goes towards fulfilling their requests. For me, it all comes together by observing people in social gatherings, private events or even in the front row of a fashion show. It is more of a cycle, a give and take relationship between the client and the designer that is instrumental in forming
an image.

Your designs usually have a strong connection with the royalty. Please comment.
A designer travels around the world to learn and get inspired by different cultures that can be later used in his designs. Opulence or royalty, however, is a more private world. It is rather incomprehensive. It is essential to strike a balance between royalty and heritage. You can’t point out a dress and say, “This looks royal.” Our designs are made for the contemporary Indian. We will never come out with a collection that claims to be inspired by the Nizam of Hyderabad, for instance. It all depends on the clientele, his/her taste and understanding of design.

What keeps you going, and how do you innovate?
I always question myself about why I do what I do. I don’t have a concrete answer. I think an Indian designer is an amalgamation of many cultures, traditions and morals. Over the years, I have realised that everything is not about lifestyle. For me, it is more about design than fashion.

Many Indian designers are setting shop abroad. They also collaborate with high street brands. Do you have similar future plans?
It is great that Indian designers are finally making their presence felt abroad but I believe that this shouldn’t hamper or dilute one’s own brand. The client is always the king. I would never set up international stores. It is a big betrayal to the main brand. Instead, I would rather consider opening other umbrella brands under our signature RR label that could produce more profit for our company
at large. Like our Club Jodhpur line which is much more affordable.

Why do you think more Indians now opt for bespoke tailoring?
Indians are not new to bespoke. Even the darzi (tailor) in the village used to practice it. At that time, you were your own designer. Customisation now is more of a service. Once a person’s wallet allows him to splurge, he doesn’t shy away from exclusivity. It is more about personal taste than
anything else.

What are your future plans?
I always like to connect to the heart of India. I don’t go by trends or even fashion weeks. I want to involve young people in my work because they form the future of our country. We are in the best phase in fashion where localisation is a huge trend. For me, it will always be about reviving the cultural heritage of our country through my designs. 

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