Fashion

Raw Mango: talking in threes

From Sanjay Garg's new festive line, Romantics   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“If you had to make a love potion, what would it smell like?” Garg has laughingly accused me of pushing him with my questions in all our interactions, so I push my luck a little bit more. Fragrances are one of the biggest tells of a person. As philosophers often say, “You cannot hide ishq and mushq [love and the smell of musk] no matter how hard you try.” And I’m sniffing for a story.

He takes the bait. “Something mysterious and smokey, like ash. But also orange blossoms, freshly-cut grass and water.” Nothing about roses! Garg is very specific, knowledgeable, perhaps India’s biggest boundary-pushing designer and visual merchant, and highly opinionated. He’s previously confessed that if he didn’t have a textile and fashion brand, he would be an activist. For the last couple of seasons, he has been letting his campaigns speak his mind. After ‘Other’ — his SS21 offering that featured models in hyper-real, painted faces in surreal locations with spooky music (that got the online troll army working extra hours) — I wonder if he’s trying to soften the mood with this romantic take.

Actually, scratch that.

A design from Sanjay Garg’s Romantics

A design from Sanjay Garg’s Romantics   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Something about Shimla

Romantics’ campaign was launched as a five-part video series, shot by photographer and long-time Garg collaborator Ashish Shah at Shimla’s Chapslee hotel, former summer residence of the late Raja Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala. It’s not just a pretty location (Garg’s disdain for palace hotel campaigns is well documented). Kapurthalas were Indian royals, but known to be highly influenced by European culture, seamlessly mixing Indian and western aesthetics — Garg’s manifesto for this line.

Designer Sanjay Garg

Designer Sanjay Garg   | Photo Credit: Sharad Shrivastav

The muse? Beloved Hungarian-Indian painter Amrita Sher-Gil who spent a large amount of time in Shimla, and was famous for both her realistic portraits and her love life. Sher-Gil was openly bisexual. Romantics’ imagery features three models: two girls and a man living out their best throuple life in a Rococo-inspired cottage. Garg says he doesn’t think of them (who he has named Madhavi, Jamshed and Ruth in his head) as a modern couple. “They are just young people exploring their sexuality and different facets of love.”

The videos are shorts, but tell a whole story about a time in the three people’s lives in a signature Raw Mango nostalgia palette. “Sometimes love is just someone understanding you like no one else has; [it’s] mental stimulation. And sometimes it’s how the light falls,” he shares. The first short starts out innocently with Jamshed enjoying a slow day of reading. By the fifth one, we are at one of Indian fashion’s first campaigns suggesting the possibility of a threesome.

From Sanjay Garg’s Romantics

From Sanjay Garg’s Romantics   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Eyes of the beholder

‘Will you ever design a full ‘western wear’ prêt collection?’ Ever the contrarian, Garg corrects me. “There is no such thing as Indian or western silhouettes. It’s all a big blur now. India has always been a drape country. Pyjamas and churidars are outside influences, too. Blouse is not an Indian word.” It’s true: Indian silhouettes, till about 200 years ago, were primarily woven textiles draped as saris, turbans, dhotis and lungis.

Romantics features saris, corset-inspired blouses, lehengas, and maxi dresses in sheer organza accented with delicate pearl and bead work. There is also quilting, ruffles and many nods to beribboned pieces. The European Rococo movement focussed on the most exquisite brocade from Italy and France; a textile that has now become synonymous with India, and that Garg has dedicated his brand to. The ‘Varanasi brocade’ in Romantics features woven bows, delicate flora and fauna. Gone are the Indian bootis, ambis and peacocks. The jewellery is from Hanut Singh, celebrated jeweller and grandson of the Kapurthala lineage. It all comes together seamlessly, with meaning.

Sanjay Garg’s new festive line, Romantics

Sanjay Garg’s new festive line, Romantics   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

His usual lemons, neons and jewel tones don’t find space — it’s pared down to black, ivory, blush, mint green and powder blues, which he refers to as aasmani (of the sky). “The colours speak of love that isn’t at its final destination yet. They are nubile, faint... almost virginal.” Some of his more contemporary silhouettes in stiff brocade are also a new playing field, a dare even.

Rococo, known as the age of Enlightenment, birthed new ideas about existence and living, and carried within it the human spirit’s need for optimism and perhaps even frivolity. Garg has often reminded me that many Indias exist within this country, and with Romantics he’s talking about an India (and mind) that was free, before it forgot.

From ₹45,000 onwards, across Raw Mango stores.


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 4:06:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/sanjay-garg-raw-mango-festive-collection-romantics-rococo-fashion-throuple/article37412013.ece

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