Indian designer Raghavendra Rathore, who is credited with bringing the classic bandhgala back into men’s wardrobes, recently showcased the latest line from his menswear label, RR, in support of the LGBTQ community at the grand finale of the Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week.

“The RR menswear ensemble showcased at the LMIFW was a combination of the signature RR bandhgala jacket with an asymmetric kurta and contrasting violet/purple breeches—all colours celebrating the rainbow them,” Rathore tells Guardian 20.

The beginning of Rathore’s five-decade-old journey into fashion design started after his training at the Parsons School of Design in New York. He worked with high-end brands such as DKNY and Oscar de la Renta before returning to his native place in Jodhpur. In 1994, he started his eponymous label that specialises in traditional menswear.

He tells us how studying fashion in New York helped him shape the design philosophy of his brand. Rathore says, “During my days in New York, I learned that fashion was never about the product, and that it was about the people. I learned that fashion is a philosophy, it is about how societies evolve. And that is the belief that laid the foundation for brand RR. There was never an obsession with the trends in New York and Paris as far as my designs are concerned. Instead, it was about making clothes that people wanted to wear. Understanding people and their needs have been pivotal to the brand’s sustenance.”

On the USP of his designs, he says, “Our classic tailored look and sharp cuts instantly gave us access to a sophisticated clientele. The metamorphosis of the Jodhpur bandhgala jacket and a new cut for the classic bandhgala suit has given this atelier a respectable place in the global fashion history.  The RR brand feels humbled that today these contributions have become synonymous with Indian heritage and resilient to the fads of fashion.”

Where does he find inspiration for his designs?

“My brand” he says, “connects to the history of design in India… The opportunity of doing a show in an ageless fort was at the forefront of my career—it propelled the brand to its present trajectory and owes special thanks to my cousin, the Maharaja of Jodhpur, as well as the Late Martand Singh Kapurthala who supported the brand.”

The design philosophy of brand RR revolves around the concept of minimalist living. Rathore’s idea of design, as he says, “ is best described as linked to the traditional old world, with a twist of new age aplomb”. 

The designer has also turned into a mentor this year with the launch of his design school, the Gurukul School of Design in Jaipur. The school was inaugurated on 28 August and offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in fashion design.

Talking about mentoring budding fashion designers via traditional Indian teaching methods, he says, “The Gurukul School of Design (GSD), located in Jaipur, was seeded with a vision to acclimatise a new generation of designers to the changing world of design through a unique undergrad programme. I started GSD in order to go back to where it all started from and contribute in the making of a new generation of fashion entrepreneurs. It is encouraging to see the partnership we forged with AJ [Amrapali Jewels] and their contribution to the vision that gives our students a broader approach to fashion and accessories.

“Through its curriculum, GSD allows students to replicate what a designer does in real life, it is contemporary and simultaneously exciting for students who are used to instant gratification and who find the old methodology of design teaching lethargic and lacking in creativity. At the very core of this remains the essence of the GSD methodology—i.e. Design 360 through Gurukul Well Being.”

According to Rathore, his design school is different from all the other such schools in the country.

“Established design schools in the country have a strong legacy of good work. Each institution has something unique to offer to students and it would be unfair to slot them as competitors, as the core of each school is different. GSD will teach the value of world culture through design and equip students with technical and non-technical skills to enable them to become entrepreneurs, if they wish to do so, as soon as they graduate… Unlike many schools, at GSD students are taught a lot more than just design. They are taught all facets of design, the skills of design, as well as the business of fashion,” he says.

The students are also taught the importance of originality in fashion. When questioned on the issue of plagiarism in Indian fashion, Rathore replies, “Plagiarism is a chronic problem since the dawn of fashion. However, many times what is seen is a lack of innovation.  However, most consumers today are brand loyal and well-informed. With social media and technology becoming an inherent part of our lives, plagiarism hardly ever goes unnoticed.”

The designer-led brand already serves a global clientele including people from Singapore, the UK, the Middle East and India. The menswear collection by the label was displayed during the 40-day pop-up show, at Robinsons, Dubai Festival City Mall, Dubai, from 28 September to 20 October 2018.

The designer has also launched his eco-fashion line this year. Emphasising on the need of slow fashion, he says, “Eco-fashion or slow fashion is a powerful movement that is here to stay… The idea is to encourage sustainability by making customers aware of the pitfalls associated with the ever-changing fashion cycles —flagging the very notion of fast fashion and letting consumers and manufacturers alike to take a step back and rethink the production cycles in the hope to secure a better future for the planet as a whole.”

On his sustainable fashion line that makes use of the khadi fabric in abundance, he says, “RR taps into the Indian textile heritage. The collection uses natural khadi yarn and process, and looks at the unexplored techniques of handcrafted materials. Each outfit in the collection is a masterpiece. It is imbued with the distinctiveness of the heritage of Jodhpur, which is evident in unique artistry. Because of its versatility, the Khadi fabric became the quintessential choice for this collection.”

Rathore also tells us about the new designs he is working on. He says, “The new collection from the RR atelier is a mix of various classic silhouettes, and reinventions with a strong emphasis on customised hand-woven and printed materials. It holds a mix of embellished evening and wardrobe specific styles that emphasise on wearability and are inspired by the lifestyles of many of our clients. Some of the design capsules include the ‘Hawa Mahal’ collection, the ‘Narlai’ collection and the ‘Jaipur Purple’ collection.”

The brand has stores in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Surat.

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