Designer Sanjay Garg’s Raw Mango is a brand that views fashion through a lens that’s uncommon in the industry. His designs are rooted in the political and social realities of the environment around us, yet manage to remain on trend.
“As a designer, inspirations and influences are always present. It does not come and go, it’s an ongoing process and it can come from anywhere—a person, region or a moment, and our idea has been to incorporate local elements that gain meaning through history, culture and context in our design vocabulary across all mediums,” says Garg, as he chats with HELLO! right after introducing his Festive 2022 collection, titled Peacock Country.
According to the designer, the collection is a homage to the rich heritage of royals from Mughals and Rajputana families.
“The sources of inspiration for Raw Mango Festive 2022 collection ‘Peacock Country’ have been multiple; we drew from the Awadh region, a place in Uttar Pradesh which was a very different culture than that of the Mughals. Taking a cue from the architecture of the region, the collection features bold and big motifs that draw from the inlay works,” he says, “We explored another parallel theme of Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, which is a poetic Awadhi phrase for a distinctive, syncretic Hindu-Muslim culture–one that brings together two different cultures and is also reflected in the many crafts and weaves—in their form, symbolism, aesthetics, and spiritual connotations. We have represented this through a usage of gold and silver zari work in the collection.” The jewel-toned collection has the rich colour palette that has been touted as one of the biggest trends of the season.
Garg is also famous for his campaign films that accompany the launch of his collections. These films tell a story that runs parallel to the inspirations behind his collections.
“The campaign of Peacock Country is inspired from Indra Sabha, an Urdu play and opera written by poet Agha Hasan Amanat, that was first staged in 1853, again from Avadh—it is a beautiful story where the poet built up a fantasy of two cultures coming together, a forbidden love between a celestial fairy and a mortal.”
The designer has always been a vocal proponent of finding saertorial inspiration closer to home, especially when it comes to the versatile sari.
“Wardrobe essentials are less about the actual garment and more about how they make you feel. A cotton sari can be equally as festive as a Benarasi, it’s how one wears it. That being said, a sari is an essential wardrobe staple, limitless in possibilities,” he says, adding, “I am not saying every woman needs to wear a sari but for me, a sari will be my first love. More than a particular weave, I like the simple aesthetics of the sari. There is a kind of imagery in my head. I love the sensibility of a Kanjeevaram with a gold border, or a white-on-white jamdani.”
He immediately dismisses the idea that a sari might not be modern enough in the current times, “I think the idea of modernity and coolness has changed. There was a time people would think a sari is not modern when, in fact, it is and has always been an evolved outfit. You don’t have to worry about sizes and you can tie it in 50 different ways. That’s the versatility of this garment.”
He adds, “I think we also need to come out of that mindset where wearing a sari is to make a statement. I personally do not agree with it. There is a cultural inheritance; we need to own it proudly.”
A sari can also be an heirloom piece that could be passed down through generations, if you take care of it properly. “Saris are special in a way that they require no sizing and can be passed on from one generation to the next,” says the designer, “Just like anything in life, if you take care of your textiles, they survive for years. It’s essential to periodically air, change the folds, ideally wrap your saris (especially those with zari) in muslin cloth and not put heavy weight on them.”
In Garg’s own words, “‘Ethnic Fashion’ is another division that divides, and makes people feel like there is a choice between tradition and modernity. I do not see it as a trend, it is who we are and we should embrace it,” so take inspiration from his words and include a sari in your wedding season wardrobes this year.