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Raghavendra Rathore: Royal Designer

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has mined his rich cultural heritage and skills to create a brand to reckon with. In a recent TV interview, actor Saif Ali Khan said this about his work, “Raghu’s harmonious designs, a blend of international and Indian aesthetics, carry forth the allure of both worlds.”

Khan is not the only one who has words of praise for the regal designer. Renowned personalities like Shah Rukh Khan, , Naveen Jindal, Jyotiraditya Scindia, , and have all been spotted in his well-tailored designs.

Images Business of Fashion in conversation with designer Raghavendra Rathore on how it feels like to be back in action. Read him on fashion, style and more.

How did it feel to show after four years?

I’m happy with the fact that everything looks the same. Except maybe the people have aged a little (smiles). We stayed away from fashion weeks because we wanted to concentrate on our menswear. And now, we have perfect equity on the bandgala. But, in a show, it somehow feels incomplete without showing womens wear as well, which is why we had an equal number of garments for men  and women this time. We reinterpreted the signature Jodhpuri bandgala in nearly six iterations for women’s couture showcase, including the new bolero bandgala and the sari bandgala. In fact, we’ve taken embroidery on velvet from the women’s garments and used them to create a new look for menswear. A fashion week is like a food festival, and I am like Dominos – I only deliver when there is a demand.

Is it true that after the first season of aired, in which you had dressed Amitabh Bachchan, he sent you a note minutes after the fi rst show saying – “Is it true that I am looking younger?”

(Smiles) That’s the beauty and the secret of the bandgala. It makes a man look trimmer and younger because it cuts close to the body. It’s almost like a capsule.

You have copyrighted the details that you use on your bandgalas and Jodhpuris?

Yes, it is true. A young designer came to me with a portfolio of innovative versions of breeches. But, he had no idea where the original pattern came from. Students of fashion and design are welcome to learn from my designs and cuts as long as they know of their authenticity. We have to protect what is ours as well as the official language of the bandgala.

And how do you propose to do that?

Fashion is not just runway stuff. It is a culture, heritage and tradition. The more noise we make about our product, the more noise is made about the product in the market. Today, everyone is making bandgalas!

People want more when they invest in luxury. No one wants to carry an expensive handbag from a high-end label unless it is heavily customised. Perhaps, that’s the reason why I am told people have confi dence in my brand. The market for high-end menswear is bursting at the seams with international brands like Canali and Tom Ford entering India under franchise agreements.

I’m not interested in a franchise; it is like running someone else’s horse. Now, I want to take this bandgala to the international market – mainly London, where we are introducing concept jackets initially through pop-up shops. What has defined fashion in India, is the real estate because the value per hanger that one is now paying is much higher than what one may pay in, say, Madison. The challenge is for young designers to sustain themselves. But, if you are innovative, you can rough it out.

Is that why you ventured into holistic designing, and not just fashion?

Expanding into varied segments of design has helped me and my team grow creatively. Specialised projects are highly customised and need a different methodology. We did the Store concept in 2011, which was implemented in our Mumbai store.

The product offering was a complete customisation of the store’s interior. We designed the entire product range (inclusive of bags, belts, clutches, sunglasses, wallets and watches, etc.), keeping in mind the clientele as well as the brand’s aesthetics. There is a growing market for madeto- measure products in India.

We also undertook the Suryagarh Jaisalmer, Rajasthan interior concept in 2009, with architect Ravi Kumar Gupta. We started at the beginning of 2008 and undertook the complete designing of the hotel interiors and furniture – preserving the heritage while creating an eclectic mix of modernism. We have also created a home linen range for Carmichael House (like cushion covers, candle-holders, bed spreads and quilts).

What trends do you envisage for the forthcoming season?

Definitely, lot of colours, with focus on the classics. Unstructured casual jackets paired with loose pants and airy footwear is ideal for summer. Simplicity and localisation will be the trend’s keywords, and also look out for tools for better time management, so nothing too particularly ornate or hard to wear.

What is your own personal style?

Comfortable. I favour a cotton-centric wardrobe. I’m technosavvy, respect our history and culture, have a keen desire to learn about everything in life, and I strongly believe that an individual’s character is shaped by his or her unique experiences as well as the people we come in contact with.

What are the must-haves in your wordrobe?

A custom outdoor Beretta jacket or a coat suits most of my requirements. The dual-purpose Berettas can be used for outdoor adventures and
expeditions by the day, while they can team up with a classic
pair of jeans for evening affairs.

A detachable hood doubles as a storage pouch and adjustable cuffs are a plus point. Kenneth Cole still rules and is on top of the pyramid for me, as their durability and comfort beats all.

A humourous and well-designed belt from Paul Smith is an important accessory that I have not moved away from in spite of the vast variety of good belts available in the marketplace nowadays.

I love my printed Hermes pocket scarves with small-scale repeating patterns, such as dots, geometric shapes and paisleys. Additionally, the colours in the square complement a good number of my sport jackets.

My recently acquired Coach bag, which I got out of necessity in Monaco, seems to be retaining a high place in my life. And, of course, a bandgala jacket with silver buttons from the custom tailoring house that I started over two decades ago is but of course, my favourite piece of fashion.