The Italian job

Seasoned designer Rajesh Pratap Singh tells us how his fashion sensibilities were honed in Arezzo

October 16, 2016 06:42 pm | Updated December 01, 2016 06:18 pm IST



While his roots are in India, his fashion sensibilities were honed in Italy. Rajesh Pratap Singh, the couturist whose fine craftsmanship can be seen from the way he continues to follow the concept of old tailoring even while investing in research and development, learnt how to make his first jacket from the Italians.

“As a school boy, I always looked up to Giorgio Armani, the way he constructed his jackets. They were modern yet classic. Learning jacket making from tailors at Arezzo was such an enriching experience. They basically mix tradition with craftsmanship. They follow the old tailoring concept in which aesthetics comes first and then comes the material,” says Rajesh.

The designer’s understanding of how the Italian designers and big manufacturers of accessories work was acknowledged when he was invited for a round-table discussion by the Italian Trade Commission at Amazon India Fashion Week. As a facilitator he can help both the nations to stitch a relationship.

“I am not a policy maker. There are other institutions. I will be happy to work with them but need the right partner. The way forward is to go into a partnership with them.”

Machine and craftsmanship go hand in hand.

“One needs to understand that Italians have a tradition and culture of making leather, which is exceptional when used in making garments and shoes. They have been doing it for so many years that they have become masters in it. Somebody can purchase a machine but he needs to understand the know how. He can do only 60 per cent of the job. The rest is done manually. He needs to know the technological part, how to use chemical and also the craft part. So there has to be a blend of machine and hand to give the right finish to the leather.”

Rajesh has adopted their concept of blending machine with craftsmanship at his factory in NCR. “I have been inspired by the way the Italian designers work, put together their ideas and work as a cohesive team. My first job was in an Italian company in which menswear label, Marzotto had a big share. I had gone there with very little money; there was no foreign exchange system as it exists today. I was only 24 then. Later, I found my own vocabulary even though my basics were honed there.”

For Rajesh, it was a new world where he got first hand experience of knowing the work culture of Italian designers. “First thing that strikes you are their machineries; totally different from ours. There can be no two opinions that they are best in the world. Then the Italian philosophy of design is what I really appreciate.Every piece has to be like a curated work but also needs to be functional. They do not believe in mass production like in China. So Indian designers need to follow this philosophy.”

What Rajesh learnt from the work culture of Italians proved handy when he started his own line of clothing in 1997. Making dresses functional and not restricting oneself to class component is his mantra. “I will never endorse a shimmery outfit which has all the embellishment but the basic construction is faulty.”

Italians are as much in demand for the exquisite way they make their shoes and bags as their garments. “More than fashion designers, it is their shoe designers who are superstars.

They craft their shoes in a way that if worn, they accentuate the beauty of the outfit and enhance the wearer’s personality. Achieving that perfection is life long dedication.”

Rajesh feels the synergy between industry and designers that we get to see in Italy and is something that India needs to learn fast to become a global player in fashion. “Italian designers focus on quality, discipline and understand that design plays an important part. But for them every single component is like any other job. Creativity is the main process. Over here design is over rated and it hampers evolution and research and development. This is the reason why we have a mismatch. Here industry does not respect fashion designers and vice versa. On the other hand, Italian designers understand production, logistics very well. Industrialists welcome them with open arms. They have their differences, fights and arguments but the whole system operates smoothly.”

Rajesh underlines that working as a team helps. “India takes pride in designing textile but here craftspersons have no clue about what is happening in the world of fashion. Similarly, our designers live in their ivory towers. It is a confused state out here. We have to see the larger picture.”

Rajesh adds that partnership can blossom in an environment where there is mutual respect for each other. “Many collaborations between the tow countries have failed because of this reason. We cannot have a mentality wherein we learn everything from them without paying them a price. It cannot be one way process.”

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