Sanjay Garg is not the typical label-conscious, smartly turned out, stylishly-speaking designer from New Delhi. Shabana Azmi, Renuka Chaudhary and Arundhati Roy drape themselves in his delicate gossamer-like Chanderi creations. But the textile enthusiast is frank about his small town moorings and doesn't care about his drab T-shirt or unpretentious Hinglish.

The subtle texture and transparency of the centuries-old hand-woven tradition of Chanderi had charmed Garg so much that instead of hitting the beaten track of mainstream designing, this NIFT product decided to evolve a modern design vocabulary using the legendary fabric.

“What attracts me to Chanderi is its classic appeal and sheerness. When de-gummed, it drapes so well and lends itself beautifully to casual and formal dressing,” says Garg, as he unveils his collection of saris, stoles and dupattas, at Amethyst in Gopalapuram.

Garg's speciality lies in keeping his creations simple. “I think today's textile designers pack their creations with too many elements. When a piece looks busy and cluttered, it doesn't appeal to me. Plain spaces bring elegance to design. And that's what I've done. Instead of filling the sari with motifs, I've spaced them out. Even the pallu isn't replete with motifs,” he explains throwing open a stunning off-white sari with Chanderi's signature buttis.

“I think if you give the Western-label-sporting modern woman enough practical options, she will definitely turn to our textiles,” adds Garg, as he drapes an eye-catching sheer kumkum coloured dupatta with parrot green border, inspired by his sister. “She's young and demands something that's light, colourful and, at the same time falls so well,” smiles the designer, who hails from a little hamlet in Rajasthan.

Colour scheme

Besides the traditional palette, Garg's Raw Mango label also features some stand-out schemes — off-white with hot pink (mashru border), coffee beans with lush green and fuchsia with sunset orange in his cotton and silk range. Podgy parrots, rotund animals and fulsome lotuses and other motifs from Nature's pulchritude enrich his work. His “Mughal returns to Chanderi” range has some pretty cypress, lily and marigold motifs. Instead of the traditional gold zari, Garg also experiments with silver and copper threads, intricate jamdani work and mixed weaves and fibres such as merino wool, tissue, khadi and Assamese eri silk to give his Chanderi collection a modern edge.

Articulate about the role of the Government and NGOs in preserving traditional craft skills, Garg muses, “There's no dearth of funds. But most often, the money does not reach the right people. Traditional craftsmen are doing so much, but getting so little. They don't want our sympathy, but our sensitivity towards their skills. That's why I've stuck to encouraging the weavers I support in my unit, despite the temptation to move on.

While Chanderi remains his mainstay, Garg's next stop will be Orissa, where he plans to update the traditional Ikkat. “Like Chanderi, I want to de-clutter and simplify Ikkat designs, before I move to Varanasi for some authentic experiments with brocade. There are far too many fakes around.”

(Raw Mango's exhibition is on at Amethyst till July 31)

Keywords: Sanjay Garg