luxe Fashion

A bandhgala for the bride

Everybody makes bandhgalas these days, but no one does the prince coat with its high collar and impeccable cut as well as designer Raghavendra Rathore. The erudite Rajasthan royal, who went ahead and patented this clever alternative to the tux a few years ago, now takes it to the next level with a compact couture collection for women. After all, while Bollywood icons, politicians and young industrialists have been patronising his eponymous luxury menswear label for over 20 years, he has had his share of women clients request the bandhgala — the Duchess of York has a few, we hear, though Rathore is the soul of discretion — and his signature breeches.

Little black bandhgala?

Next month, actor Kareena Kapoor, whose husband Saif Ali Khan is a Rathore regular, will be showcasing the new line for women at Dubai’s Royal Bridal Couture. “When we initiated a set-up for women in 2013, we wanted the same DNA as our menswear. You can choose your silhouette, which is event-based, not dependant on fashion cycles. Going forward, this is the big trend in fashion,” begins Rathore, admitting that quality, not numbers, is what matters to him. “I can make the same profits as 500 kurtas in prêt, with just five customised outfits. It is a conscious decision not to take the retail route.” Having worked with designers Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta when he started out, Rathore’s first show in India had everyone from model Mehr Jessia to designers Rohit Bal and Tarun Tahiliani rally around as he gave us a taste of how the traditional bandhgala, with its boxy armhole and heavy fabric, could get a contemporary spin. High on the armhole and snug around the chest, with the first two buttons open, perfect for cravats and scarves — that’s the Rathore treatment. The women’s version will have these features too, with an allowance for necklines that can be customised to frame jewellery. As with the bespoke menswear, two fittings are required, also possible at the client’s home.

A bandhgala for the bride

Breeches and satin

Rathore’s red bandhgala-inspired blouse has been popular among fashion insiders for a while now, but he sees his new bandhgalas being teamed with breeches and cigarette pants, besides saris and lehengas. The silhouettes are global and the lighter garments travel well. “Many women get back saying the jackets can be rolled up and carried in their bag,” muses Rathore, who turns 50 next month and believes his clients know best when it comes to styling his garments. A customer recently paired his tapered, printed breeches with slouchy satin blouses. “It’s not how I would imagine it worn; my clients know their mind and it works!” The fabrics range from organza or organza sandwiched with silk “for buoyancy”. Expect a lot of unusual prints, a Rathore trademark, and sheer detail. Velvet options are also available, a practical solution with saris in winter. As for the palette, there is a departure from sombre menswear colours to include the darker spectrum of jewel tones. The pricing, fortunately, isn’t much different from the menswear, with you taking home a small bandhgala bolero jacket for ₹65,000.

Having recently revived the “flying Jodhpur shoe’ for men, with its wraparound straps, loops and buckles, our designer has some clear ideas about the accessories his women customers should wear. Towering heels get full points, we gather. “My clients have a good wardrobe of shoes, an essential when you have flouncy, long silhouettes. The accessories are usually satin and they are a sophisticated lot, easily carrying off bags and clutches in startling pink or green,” he says, adding, “They all love classic jewellery and you will find very few dangling earrings.”

School in the making

This Parsons School of Design alumnus has been known to design everything from mobile phones (12 years ago) to jewellery, interiors, uniforms, and dark chocolate. He now runs two heritage hotels and a bakery! But it appears he has shifted gears once again, with his new role as educator. His Gurukul School of Design in Jaipur, scheduled to begin next year, sees him preparing a curriculum, where each student will have a mentor. “It was different when there were just 10 of us (designers). Now, 700 kids graduate in fashion every year. I want to create thinkers who will know what to do as designers from the very beginning,” he says. The four-year course on design and the business of design, with annual fees at approximately ₹7,00,000, will have capsules with leading designers and visits to spas or an expensive meal at Taj Rambagh Palace because, as he puts it, “You need to think like your customer.”

Priced from ₹1,00,000 to ₹3,00,000 for a full set, at his studio in Jodhpur and Raghavendra Rathore addresses in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Surat and Hyderabad.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 10:15:29 PM |

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