Ever since childhood, designer Raghavendra Rathore has been fascinated by the soldiers marching at the Republic Day parade. He usually watches it live on television with his children. But this time, as he watches the event, he is bound to feel an extra sense of pride as the women of the BSF Camel Contingent will participate in the parade, in uniforms designed by him.
The BSF Camel Contingent, which has been part of the Republic Day celebrations since 1976, will this year witness the BSF’s first-ever women contingent riding beside their male counterparts.
“We were pleasantly surprised to be approached for a historic project by the BSF. There are no second thoughts especially when it comes to designing women’s bandhgalas for the forces. The timeframe was just right and the decisions on the prototypes shown were taken in a timely manner to be ready for the January 26 parade,” says Rathore, who received the project details around end-August last year. It took him roughly three months to complete the uniform in time for BSF’s Raising Day on December 3.
The brief given to him was to make the uniform inclusive and bring a feeling of pride when one wears it, especially the women who are to wear this for the first time as part of the parade and the BSF platoon. “We brought in the Udaipuri paag for women. The design has been inspired by the Jodhpuri bandhgala and breeches. These elements are all part of heritage wardrobe. The use of classic heritage clothing will make this design go down in history and preserve the legacy of our costume heritage,” believes Rathore.
It is a ceremonial uniform and not for warfare, says the designer, adding that since parades happen internationally as well, he had to make sure the fabric was not adverse to the weather. “The fit needs to look a certain way when one is seated on a camel. It shouldn’t look unkempt. So, we used a blended fabric with anti-wrinkle properties.”
Rathore also incorporated various skills from across the country. He used zari from Benares and trims from Benares fabric as well. “The idea was not to use anything mill-made,” he says.
“The most important aspect of the design that we wanted to incorporate was to keep alive the originality and lineage of the Maharaja Ganga Singh Risala design which can be seen in the men’s uniform. This was adopted by the BSF couple of decades ago. We wanted to keep function as a priority and most importantly project the equality of the regiment for both women and men on the same visual context through the design,” explains Rathore.
Out of the many prototypes that were created, Rathore says that the one that was most liked by the management at BSF was the one with the princess cut for the Mahila Praharis. The subdued breeches make all the difference when you are mounted on a camel.
Having designed uniforms for many players from the hospitality industry, Rathore says that uniform design is an art that needs a perfect balance of practicality, function and most of all impact. “What generally happens in a corporate structure is you go through layers of presentation. In the BSF, they were extremely quick on decision making and the brief was clear,” concludes Rathore