Asha Sarabhai's label comes to Mumbai 40 years after its launch
A two-day pop-up brings Ahmedabad textile designer Asha Sarabhai's label to Mumbai, more than 40 years after its launch
"I'm new to this [interviews]," is Ajay Mayor's first admission after a polite hello, when we call him for a phone chat. His quiet modesty is refreshingly well placed, considering the 31-year-old is responsible in bringing Raag, a label founded by the grand dame of Indian textiles, Asha Sarabhai, in 1975, for the first time to India under the parent company, Beej.
Mayor, also Sarabhai's nephew, is intimately mindful about the deeper ancestry connections that Raag evokes. UK's Independent likened Sarabhai's thoughtful work to Japanese fabric innovator Issey Miyake's as "a bridge between Eastern and Western attitudes". In fact, the two shared mutual admiration. In 1984, Miyake offered Sarabhai a chance to launch her label under the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo. It never came to India, which back then, was considered a tricky, mass-oriented market with little interest for handmade clothing.
With a major in International Relations from Pomona College in Claremont, California, Mayor's interest in politics, history and economics led him to pursue journalism, and intern with an English news channel. In 2012, however, he relocated to hometown Ahmedabad, "because of family and other reasons". Thereon, he began work on Beej.
After the launch of Raag on beejstore.com in December 2016, and a series of pop-ups in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, Raag will mark its Mumbai debut on August 11. The two-day pop-up at Bungalow Eight will feature the label's signature silhouettes, including coats, jackets, dresses, tops and bundis, inspired by Indian textiles and using appliqué, jali stitch and pin-tucks.
In an interview with mid-day, ahead of the two-day pop-up, Mayor talks about respecting rules of engagement, whether it's to do with family, or slow fashion.
On the personal influence
My grandmother, Geeta Mayor, who led a remarkable life and did seminal work in the field of Indian classical music, had a huge influence on my life. She was self-effacing by temperament — almost ridiculously so — and truly open-minded and passionate. My uncle Anand Sarabhai, who was a scientist with varied interests, a curious mind with a tremendous joy for life, has been a big influence too.
On aunt, Asha Sarabhai's work in textiles
I was immediately struck by the beauty, simplicity and intricacy of Raag's clothes. There is a purity and honesty to Asha's work that was apparent to me even though I do not come from a textile or design background. She might not be involved in the business on a day-to-day basis, but continues to direct the brand, and all our designs are inspired by her archival work.
On the family business
It is not exactly a family business since extended family is not involved in the venture. It is more a joint venture between people who happen to be related.
On looking ahead
At the moment, we are focused on taking the brand to different cities through strategic partnerships, as is the case with Bungalow Eight. We are also working on revamping our online presence.
On the Mumbai launch
Mumbai has discerning customers, who can now look forward to clothes with a rich heritage and still seem fresh and relevant. Our focus has always been on creating products of uncompromising quality, not in response to fashion trends but to bring comfort and joy over the years. We hope Mumbai appreciates the subtlety that defines Raag.
When: 11 am to 9 pm, August 11 and August 12
Where: Wankhede Stadium
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