A Suzani Summer: Rajdeep Ranawat’s S/S ‘21 line updates the resort wear format for an unpredictable year
If you spent any time searching for the designer behind Kareena Kapoor Khan’s chic Bagru printed silk kaftans, you have been looking for Rajdeep Ranawat. For years now, the designer’s craft-focused label has been fine-tuning the idea of homegrown resortwear, to make it more efficient and versatile. But Ranawat insists, “Resort wear should ultimately be about clothes that are easier to travel in''. The designer’s new collection, A Suzani Summer, sticks to a sense of joie de vivre but prioritises utilitarianism, which is set to be key this year, particularly when it comes to travel couture.
Ranawat’s label is also breaking new grounds when it comes to pragmatic silhouettes which don’t compromise with the folkloric essence of his aesthetic. His ivory hued Gulnora printed silk top, for instance, has an embroidered neckline and frill collar, and Ranawat styles it with a printed skirt featuring adjustable drawstrings embellished in coordinating tassels with glass beads and Swarovski crystals. On his Instagram the designer pairs the ensemble with a pink silk organza cover up kimono with a printed silk border embroidered with intricate french knots, brass metals and cowry shells. For 2021 at least, this is peak bridesmaid chic - a look that’s versatile enough for a beachy wedding in Maldives or a luxe bridal bash at an Udaipur palace.
This adaptability possibly stems from Ranawat’s exhaustive, year-long production process, since the designer has an astonishing output, and aims at coming up with a new edit every month. “We design about 14-16 collections a year. Last year I had to work with a smaller team but we managed to stick to the same pace. I can never show my clients the same things when they come back to me for more, I have to have new things up for sale,” Ranawat tells us.
Voyage through a tradition
Suzani is a widely recognised thread work indigenous to Uzbekistan (the Persian word ‘suzan’ literally means needle). Ranawat’s mirror work Uzbeki ikat cape jacket or sheer silk organza kimono coverup top wants the wearer to engage with the possibilities of the craft, instead of just exoticising a heritage design tradition.
“The collection was entirely inspired by my travels, I realised I had enough material to actually make something along these lines. I frequently travel to new destinations for inspiration, which is something I couldn't really do during a lockdown. I rummaged through all the data that I’d collected for inspiration over the past year, sourced from the vintage shops and streets of Istanbul, fabrics and vintage textiles from Uzbekistan, and samples, jewellery and accessories from the UAE to come up with this collection, that embodies everything our brand is known for and much more,” Ranawat shares.
One wouldn’t be completely remiss to credit Ranawat for Bollywood’s newfound love for prints. Kareena may be the reason why kaftans are flying off the shelves at the moment, but Ranawat’s indigenous prints have been a part of A-lister wardrobes for years now. Be it Neha Dhupia’s Dibbia Banera Silk tunic which she wore for a beachy getaway, Hansika Motwani’s airport tunic or even Guauhar Khan’s bandhini lehenga (the actor wore a Rajdeep Ranawat lehenga for her mehendi ceremony), prints are clearly here to stay, as are roomy silhouettes that are easy to style and the epitome of off-duty glam.
“Bollywood celebrities have been buying mainly loungewear from us at the moment, as we are known for our luxurious silk numbers in artistic prints, that are lightweight and have a comfortable silhouette. We also only use premium fabrics, mainly silks, so they last longer. We loved Kareena Kapoor Khan in our pieces last year. She picked quite a few things from us. In fact, after Kareena started wearing our kaftans, many other designers started exploring the styling trend,” Ranawat shares.
The Digital Shift
The designer has been selling virtually for a while now and his label was able to maneuver around the phygital format and experience a massive surge in sales. “We knew that everything would eventually shift towards the online portals, the moment lockdowns were announced. Everyone was homebound and it was evident that the digital life had to take a step forward in terms of retail especially. The stores stopped with the offline orders and they were shut. So we ended up doing photoshoots for the new collections and uploaded the look-books online,” Ranawat says.
The label’s website is designed like a handy and engaging catalogue of workable looks, which alsofunction as visual inspiration, so buyers know exactly what to buy with a draped waist shirt dress or how to style vintage shararas. “With offline stores being shut, the surge in digital sales was inevitable. People know what they want in terms of fashion, they want to move ahead with the times and digital buying has only made it easier for them to have their demands met,” Ranawat shares.