Old world meets MODERN
Ace menswear designer Raghavendra Rathore, in town with his fusion collection, deconstructs male fashion.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘regal’ in relation to menswear? We bet you think of outfits with overly ornate gold embroideries and bold embellishments. But prepare to be pleasantly surprised with the regal creations of ace Indian menswear couturier Raghavendra Rathore, who’s been dressing up Indian style icons for years. His designs show a signature restraint for ornate embellishments and instead focuses on an air of aristocratic sophistication.
Well-known for dressing up members of the Indian nobility, top filmstars and cricketers – all of whom want his signature understated and ‘restrained’ regal touch in their wardrobe, Rathore’s creations have a characteristic simplicity and quiet elegance.
His bandhgala suits have been seen on cricketer Virat Kohli for his wedding reception, and on actors such as Saif Ali Khan and Anil Kapoor, among others.
Rathore whose bespoke Indo-Western fusion menswear designs are not just popular in India but overseas as well, is visiting Dubai today to oversee a pop-up exhibit of his designs at the Robinsons, Dubai Festival City. The exhibit, Atelier India, began yesterday and his clothes will be on sale for 20 days.
‘The pop-up showcases a mix of classic, contemporary and transitional outfits,’ says Rathore. Although Dubai has been Rathore’s fave stopover on personal trips for years, fashion-wise, this is the first time he has entered into a collaboration to showcase his creations.
Fondly known as the king of the bandhgala, Rathore is credited for reviving the traditional Indian outfit by creating modern avatars of these band-collar suits. Seen as the Indian take on formal western suits, bandhgalas have always drawn considerable attention globally and even Italian retail fashion giants like Ermenegildo Zegna and Canali have created versions of it.
A scion of Jodhpur’s royal family, Rathore comes from a 1,200 years-old royal lineage of Rajasthan. His great grandfather, the Maharaja of Jodhpur, was known to have been the most fashionable monarch of his times. However, western fashion sensibilities might be an offshoot from Rathore’s early years having graduated from New York’s Parsons School of Design, before working with Donna Karen (DKNY) and Oscar De La Renta during the early years of his design career.
Partnership with Italian fashion giant
Earlier this year, Rathore made headlines when Ermenegildo Zegna invested in his eponymous brand by way of a three-way alliance that also included Indian conglomerate Reliance. An Indian designer being backed by an international label is rare and so this news generated ample buzz among the fashion fraternity.
Says Rathore: ‘This alliance celebrates the symbolic acceptance of Indian design’s global footprint for the first time. Through our unique collaboration, the ever-evolving consumer would get access to a fine blend of regal heritage dovetailed in modern boldness.’ Further, the three-way association gives the partners incredible access to sharing resources, which ultimately will translate into value for the customer while boosting the bottom line.
Autumn/Winter trend in menswear
For the upcoming Autumn/Winter season, Rathore recommends sticking to classic pieces that fit into your everyday wardrobe for an instant style upgrade. ‘It is interesting how velvet can be incorporated into a bandgala as a fabric of choice for this season,’ he says. ‘The key to bandhgalas is to be subtly sophisticated with the choice of fabric and to accentuate it.’
While Indian womenswear designers are creating IndoWestern fusion styles, there are not many menswear designers catering to this niche. Perhaps recognising this, Rathore has stepped in. His design USP lies in his harmonious, yet simple fusion of Indian and Western styles. ‘Currently, there’s a shift towards fusion of styles in menswear – Indian wear that is functional and versatile. A bandhgala when worn buttoned up is an Indian outfit; when worn with a shirt with buttons open, it becomes a totally western jacket outfit.
‘I believe you don’t have to be [completely] ethnic. You can do it in a way that all the world can respond to your product,’ says Rathore. ‘My designs are not so focused on ever-changing trends, so we have to carefully consider the celebrities we tie up with because their personality has to match the classic personality of our clothes.’
Are men averse to making changes in their wardrobe easily?
‘Over the last 2-3 years, the concept of minimalist living has seen an exponential rise. This movement is all about simplified aesthetics, timelessness and, more importantly, an emphasis on quality,’ says Rathore. According to the designer, there is a mistaken perception that men are less flexible about their wardrobe. That is not so, he says. While it may appear so, the real reason is that there’s a conscious shift among men towards classics. ‘I’m finding a total shift among men towards simplicity in aesthetics and sophistication, so the male clients who come to us want understated elegance or classics,’ says Rathore.
Redefining style terms
Bandhgala and Jodhpuri: The bandgala is a band collar jacket structured and designed to work as an ideal example of formal dressing. The jodhpuri jacket is another term used by the brand RR – as the roots of the brand’s story lie in the city of Jodhpur. Bandi: Another name for a band collar waistcoat.
Achkan and sherwani: The achkan is cut straighter (controlled flare) and shorter (barely covering the knees) compared to the sherwani. The cut is carefully designed without being too cumbersome in terms of the volume of fabric to facilitate getting on and off the horse easily. A sherwani is more Mughal in appeal and is much longer and very flared.
‘There is this conscious staying away from transient trends. That’s where the exclusivity of bespoke creations comes in. We are making sure that no one piece is like any other so there’s never a chance that you walk into a room and find another gentleman wearing the same clothes as you.’
The ideal Western suit alternative
Talking of his all-time favourite bandhgalas which have now become synonymous with his brand, Rathore says, ‘If there is one outfit that works wonders for men’s wardrobe, it is the bandhgala. Global, inclusive and yet comfortable, this silhouette has found a voice internationally. This kind of suit or coat is a highly versatile piece of Indian clothing and can be combined with a pair of jeans or contrasting cotton or silk trousers to work as a combination
suit – the perfect ambassador of Indian heritage and yet an alternative to the Western formal suit. The genius of the garment lies in the fact that it can be worn differently, in different parts of the world —with breeches or with denims.’
However, while experimenting with the bandhgala, make sure you explore the various fabrics, textiles and silhouette options available.
A bandhgala offers a lot of options as it works very well as a cotton or linen deconstructed daywear piece or even a semiformal garment worn to an evening party when combined with denim. It can also be designed as fully embellished or formal piece of clothing for festive or black tie events.
Wondering about the right trouser to team with the bandhgala? Breeches won’t get you wrong. ‘Breeches are a classic garment that have been worn for centuries in the Jodhpur landscape,’ says Rathore. ‘A classic style statement right from the royal era, these can be worn with a bandhgala, waistcoat or even a simple white shirt. Depending on the whole look, Monk straps or classic lace up shoes work well with breeches,’ he suggests.
‘As for fabrics, I have replaced linen with Italian cotton for suit fabric,’ says Rathore. If you’re looking for a versatile, year-round suit fabric, then cotton is the answer. It’s great for Dubai.
The pocket square dilemma…
‘Men should not accessorise themselves from head to toe – that can be an actual fashion fauxpas,’ he cautions. ‘Just use one key accessory like the pocket square – that can make all the difference. A pocket square, like most accessories, is mostly about reflecting ones personality,’ says Rathore.
‘Getting customised pocket squares is a great idea. While keeping it in the classic space, one can have so much fun with it because of the way it can be made into different styles, colours and prints.’
The ‘Atelier India’ pop-up exhibit began yesterday at the Robinsons Department Store, Dubai Festival City, and is on until October 20.
‘As for fabrics, if you’re looking for a versatile, year-round suit fabric, then cotton is the answer. It’s great for Dubai.’
Pocket squares can reflect the user’s personality, says Rathore