Rajesh Pratap Singh will weave the story of the fashion industry in the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week grand finale
At Dublin in The Maurya recently, a corner played host to an installation of light bulbs and what looked like a hundred coarse muslin coats – carpeting the walls, suspended from the ceiling and jostling for space with the milky yellow lights. They took centrestage, and people could either duck or find a place of relative spaciousness.
Rajesh Pratap Singh was being announced the grand finale designer for the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW), due to start in the Capital on March 24. As the photographers clicked, the designer, for the most part, had his eyes fixed on a spot on the floor three feet away, occasionally looking up and smiling shyly.
He is known for clothes that look, fit and feel right. The palette is basic and embellishments minimal – the latter, when used, so clever to escape general notice. Sometimes quirky too – a past collection has also seen him reinventing the humble gumcha.
The designer's collection for the WIFW finale, titled ‘Bespoke Tales', is his narration of the story of the industry where he enjoys a niche and respect.
“The last year we've been observing how the industry has been shaping up,” says Singh. “The show is going to be dialogue between different actors in the fashion industry – the designers, models, technicians, journalists, photographers…” he says.
Muslin will form the core of the collection. A work-in-progress preview of the clothes to be showcased saw a model in Singh's trademark jacket and pencil pants, and another in a shift dress (with shoulder pads). All the cut-and-fold markings were present, bright red against cream fabric – “top sleeve panel cut-2”, “front cut 2”, “on fold”... The only things missing were safety pins and measuring tape.
Singh calls muslin the “infrastructure”. “Muslins are the real clothes, that's what we work with. The rest is all superficial,” he says.
The “day-to-evening” collection is also rich in the designer's staple jackets. “I am a jacket maker. I'm trained in jacket-making and that's what I do best,” says Singh, on the pieces one might expect to see in ‘Bespoke Tales'. “Then there are candy dresses, dresses with cassatas, cupcakes…” he smiles.
He isn't sure about how many, yet: “Probably one hour before the show.”
He is sceptical about where designers look for inspiration.
“As an industry we need to evolve. We need to be more responsible about where our resources are coming from.”
He keeps the lid on the suspense of the grand finale, on whether there will be the hype and hoopla that usually characterises a fashion week-ending show. (His earlier WIFW grand finale show in March 2007 saw Tabu take the ramp in a shimmering midnight blue outfit.) “My job is to just make the clothes. We don't really change from what we do normally,” he says.