From Mehrangarh Fort to a global icon, celebrity designer Raghavendra Rathore shares the journey of his label as it turns 25
ROOTED in heritage and culture, the label Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur stands firmly and fashion-
ably for luxury men’s wear. Over two and a half decades in the industry and the blue-blooded couturier, Raghavendra Rathore, made his signature bandhgala a staple in men’s wardrobe. From the who’s who of Bollywood like Anil Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan to royalties like HH Maharaja Manujendra Shah, Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal, HH Padmanabh Singh, Maharaja of Jaipur and others, his bespoke timeless pieces have been worn by all with panache. The Jodhpur designer shares his journey that started from the Mehrangarh fort, becoming a global brand and more. Excerpts:
You have completed more than two decades in the fashion industry. Are you content with your
At Brand Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur, the idea has always been to reinvent while staying true to the ethos of heritage. It is imperative to keep moving forward no matter what and constantly changing gears in keeping with the need of the hour as that has always been of key essence to us. It is a bit like sharpening a pencil. The Raghavendra Rathore brand has always tried to focus on unconventional things
and thinking out of the box rather than going with the flow or for that matter getting too obsessed with trends and set patterns. Through its product offering, with a contemporary approach, in the bespoke segment, the brand is now a global player. Also the brand is honoured to have led the way for the industry in terms of disseminating the message of cultural and heritage clothing in a classic space. RBL’s and Ermenegildo Zegna’s investment into the brand will now fuel the next phase of growth.
How has the sartorial journey been so far?
Having people constantly ask where one can buy the bandhgala jacket, I started a small studio 24 years back to tailor womenswear and menswear bandhgala jackets out of a small quaint room in the corner of the house. Little did I know that the power of the bandhgala would bring stalwarts across the globe, who actually enjoy wearing it. In 1994 Indian model, Meher Bhasin, sashayed wearing a beige version of this bandhgala jacket paired with Jodhpur breeches in a fashion show at the magical 1,200-year-old Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. The jacket was sharply tailored and fitted her like a glove, with two satin princess panels on either sides. As she descended down the stairs in the Zenana section of the fort, it was the first-time that fashionistas witnessed the profound impact of a tailored bandhgala. This is where the story of our brand started.
Since then, the bandhgala has become synonymous with the Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur label. The heritage and history attached with the aesthetics in design have always played a vital role in evolving the brand. Even now the focus is to diversify without forgetting one’s roots and core essence of what the brand defines.
What were the challenges that kept you going?
In every aspect of design creation and execution lies challenges. Time management is an essential trait to master. The past to present journey is definitely an archival reference point for the brand Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur but with every passing season, the idea is to always push boundar-
ies, design with a purpose rather than just making a work of art, and reach newer heights that serves as building blocks for the brand that has a recall value.
How have you grown as a designer and how has your brand evolved over the years?
Growing up in a house with secret corridors and attics, I clearly remember my brush with unusual cargo, boxes, cupboards and hand-made trunks that were stacked up in the stores, each full of splendours from around the world, frozen in time. The maze and the mysteries of old forts, palaces and cities, is to me a treasure trove of endless ideas. These drove me to make a career that was born out of passion and love for creating design of any form or space. For inspiration for a brand like ours, we find it almost necessary to occasionally dive into the attic of ideas to create new products for a more contemporary time but with the essence of the past.
How is the partnership with Ermenegildo Zegna unfolding?
The partnership with Ermenegildo Zegna and Reliance Brands Limited signals optimism for the industry and opens a road map for accelerated growth, giving more tenacity to the world of luxury fashion in Asia.
You have dressed so many people, whom did you enjoy dressing up/designing for?
All discerning personalities dressed up by the brand have been very special to us and hold a special place in our hearts. Each of them have their unique individual styles, likes and dislikes, and the ability to cater to each of these, is the beauty of a bespoke brand.
How has men’s fashion evolved over the years? Do you think men have become more fashion conscious now?
Men’s fashion has evolved considerably over the years, although I must confess that men have always been extremely conscious about their sense of style. However, men now have an access to a greater diversity of styles.
You now have a designing school as well. Tell us more about that. Why the need of a designing school?
The help and support that I received in my early educational years had taught me to also impart education. Gurukul School of Design, just in its first year, is intended to be a game-changer with respect to design education in Asia. The 360-degree approach towards all aspects of design is a unique methodology that the school is based on. It emphasises on a holistic learning experience and aims at making designers of the future, more all-rounded.
The bandhgala has become more versatile and now women ensemble too has the style. What was the idea behind it?
As a menswear bespoke brand, when the idea of women’s wear was presented, the designers at the atelier worked with their unique strengths to convert the demand and create products that are not only unique from a fashion perspective but also stay classic to their core of tailoring and represent stylish
heritage clothing. Owing to the simple fact that the life of a bespoke brand is outside the cycle of fashion weeks and much more personalised and in close contact with menswear customers, the approach is similar when the brand attempts to create a women’s wardrobe.
What is an ideal summer look for men?
A deconstructed cotton suit cut like a shirt that emulates ease in dressing is the perfect travel suit that is weightless and easy to pack.
What will the next collection of the brand offer?
The Summer 2019 collection is extremely wearable, made with handwoven textile, making it a very sustainable, organic collection.
For the millennial, how is the brand reinventing itself?
The brand is predominantly creating things within a classic space with innovations and tweaks in design that are subject to purpose, function and lifestyle. With this being the focus, it is easy to adapt to any time and space and cover a huge gamut of clients.