He entered the scene quite simply dressed in black without any of the flamboyance or exaggeration which one could have expected. His royal lineage barely concealed by patrician features, perfect Mayo College diction, segued wonderfully with the languid leonine calm he maintained in conversation. Raghavendra Rathore shattered every stereotype I had prematurely assumed and accepted as norm. “I am building on an old existing world that belongs to us. We need to open the gates to let heritage prevail, modify it and adapt it to our present times,” said Rathore who was in the city recently for a conference.
Designers before our time have made contributions in the form of temples and monuments which have come together to become the backbone of our culture. “We are going back to our roots, designs are getting more heritage oriented,” he says.
Rathore has recently expanded his operations and does work with corporate houses and product designs and this he claims has been the most interesting journey for him. “Fashion is the most frivolous and most non-constant for me, although it might not be so for other designers.”
He lives knowing and lamenting a horrible truth – nobody knows what Indian design is. “Our icons of design like the Parliament House and the Howrah Bridge have been designed by the white man. Even in design schools, the focus is on illustrations and silhouettes, and not enough is said about the wealth of Indian design,” says Rathore.
He empathises with the need to highlight the idea of a ministry of design. “It is not a new concept. It exists in Italy and should ideally be a team of aesthetically driven people.” The ministry of design could be the answer to the deplorable state of design and architecture (read Commonwealth Games) in the country and just might save us from making our country a homogenised blob of steel, glass and trends.
“Fashion is a straight line and style changes every half an hour. Indian fashion is governed by strange parameters like the weather and rituals, which become the thorn on the rose,” says Rathore, explaining why it is not possible for Indian designers to stay abroad for more than two or three seasons. “To compete with big names you need big money. The financial requirements are so large that it does not make sense, so while you could probably do business there, you cannot build a brand.”
The lack of heritage in designs results in creations that are numb and devoid of emotion. “Mixing of materials without realising their value will give us a time-bound design.”
We are in an age where the question of what is Indian design is a huge cry. “In a place of so much sacred culture that we need to preserve and be be recognised for, we need to ask where did our culture go and what eggs did it lay?”
Why should a country with a culture as lavish as ours forego the essence that only we are capable of and is celebrated world over, to recreate a hollow block of glass and steel bereft of emotion? It is time we let the eggs Culture laid centuries ago a chance to incubate and become a part of our today.