In a free-wheeling interview with HELLO! the seasoned fashion designer covers two decades of sartorial brilliance and reveals the most important trait he’s embraced from his regal lineage has been empathy, which ensures his designs resonate with the heart.
Exuding charm and sophistication, with a tenure of two decades in men’s couture, Raghavendra Rathore stands as the epitome of refined style. The distinguished designer, a member of the Jodhpur royal family, founded Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur (RRJ) in 1994. Drawing inspiration from his royal lineage, he became renowned for distinctive cuts, flawlessly tailored jodhpurs and elegant bandhgalas. It has since become the preferred choice for the discerning Indian gentleman.
Maintaining a discreet presence on social media and embracing technology through AI, Raghavendra is expanding his horizons beyond the realm of couture. In a free-flowing conversation with HELLO! he talks about his advent into the world of interior design, his foray into film couture, the increasing recognition of men’s fashion in India and how he spends his time when he’s not immersed in the creative process.
HELLO!: In India, fashion has traditionally been a woman’s world with the desi men taking no interest. How much has that changed since the advent of the metrosexual male, especially from your perspective as a designer for men?
Raghavendra Rathore: “The rise of the selfie culture and constant social media commentary has dramatically altered social dynamics. Nowadays, every moment is displayed, scrutinised and discussed online. This exposure has influenced the metrosexual man, transforming his self-perception and sense of style. The evolution is evident, as men become more conscious and competitive about their image in a society that is increasingly interconnected and visually oriented.”
H!: How would you define the new-age male shopper?
RR: “The modern male shopper, empowered by greater financial liquidity from readily available credit and increased salaries, has shed the image of a reticent buyer. He has emerged as a coveted demographic for luxury brands that previously overlooked men in favour of women’s fashion. Conscious of his physique and health, he now rivals his female counterparts in the retail landscape and brands are taking notice. They’re actively expanding their offerings with innovative products and segments to captivate this burgeoning market and maximise the potential of this shift.”
H!: How experimental are men when it comes to fashion?
RR: “The contemporary ‘casual-formal’ look has opened up a plethora of opportunities for designer brands to cater to the modern male shopper’s complete lifestyle. This new trend strikes a harmonious balance between ready-to-wear items and formal attire, such as pairing Merino wool T-shirts with formal jackets and jeans. This flexibility allows for an infinite variety of ensembles, providing the menswear segment with a broad arsenal of products. Men now have the means to express their individuality and eloquently narrate their personal stories through their diverse wardrobes.”
H!: Without a doubt, you are a low-profile designer. Is that a deliberate choice, indicating a preference not to engage in social media exposure like your counterparts?
RR: “Building a brand can take two distinct paths once the brand has achieved certain benchmarks: one that relies heavily on the vision of a designer and another that operates independently of any single creative force. My preference leans towards a business model grounded in the brand itself, rather than the reputation of a designer. This approach offers substantial security to investors and retains the flexibility to inject fresh talent into the brand’s ethos, allowing it to make swift and impactful advances in a competitive industry. This may also have been the reason for us to have been one of the first home-grown brands to invite investment from Reliance Brands Ltd. almost four to five years ago, much before other brands picked up on the opportunity. Additionally, bespoke brands are not as reliant on the constant churn of social media and promotional events that retail brands often depend on for visibility—events that can become a relentless expense and necessity rather than a strategic choice for brand growth.”
H!: What inspired your venture into designing costumes for films like The Grey Man and OMG, Oh My God as well as creating a lobby for Suryagarh hotel in Jaisalmer?
RR: “Occasionally, exceptional opportunities arise that prompt us to evaluate their potential impact on our brand’s credibility. We undertake new projects—be it in Hollywood or Bollywood costume design or lifestyle interior design—only after thorough scrutiny, ensuring they align with our marketing strategy.”
H!: Would you consider this a natural extension of your design work?
RR: “Design today is about weaving a narrative through aesthetics. As a bespoke brand, we engage in a personal dialogue with each customer to meet their unique expectations—ones they likely won’t find fulfilled elsewhere. We pride ourselves on being a harmonious blend of creative solutions and personalised values, ensuring that what we deliver is not just a product but a piece of individual expression. The true beauty of our craft is rooted in the collaborative spirit of this country’s artisans. Together, we can create anything, from the luxurious interiors of a car to the bespoke furniture of a grand hotel, from the warm ambiance of lifestyle hospitality spaces to corporate partnerships. We can even craft personalised jewellery, complete with one’s initials, in any chosen metal or gemstone. This ability to tailor dreams into tangible forms is what sets our brand apart.”
H!: Tell us about the outfits you designed for soldiers at the Border Security Force (BSF).
RR: “The opportunity to represent a nation through design is a once-in-a-lifetime honour that imbues a profound sense of pride and purpose. When called upon, a design house not only crafts a product but also becomes a guardian of history. That was the essence of our endeavour when we were chosen to design the women’s uniforms for the BSF. We delved into the past for inspiration, drawing from the regal elegance of the Bikaner Royal Lancers of the 1920s and ’30s. Our goal was to encapsulate the valour and heritage of that era while outfitting modern-day heroines. This project was more than a commission; it was a chance to weave a part of our nation’s storied tapestry into the fabric of the present, ensuring that every stitch carried the legacy of our ancestors into the future.”
H!: Not many people are aware that you have a passion for technology…
RR: “My affinity for technology often piques the curiosity of new designers in our department. This inclination isn’t happenstance; it’s rooted in a formative journey that began with assembling circuitry and evolved into programming and logic. These early experiences have profoundly shaped the growth of the RRJ brand, infusing a methodical perspective into our creative ethos. In our studio, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) is not merely encouraged—it’s a critical component of our design process. By marrying the timeless elegance of classic styles with the cutting-edge precision of technology, we forge a unique, futuristic blend that keeps our products at the vanguard of innovation. This symbiosis ensures that while our designs echo the grandeur of the past, they are crafted for the present and beyond, continually rejuvenating the brand’s identity.”
H!: You hail from a regal background. Tell us a little bit about your lineage and your upbringing in royal surroundings.
RR: “In today’s India, the regal heritage serves as a rich tapestry from which our brand draws texture and inspiration. While it’s crucial not to linger in the shadows of a royal past, its influence in shaping a mindset—one that fervently revives the art of storytelling—cannot be dismissed. The lessons from my formative years remain eternally relevant, echoing the wisdom passed down through generations. Of these values, the most pivotal is empathy. It’s the cornerstone that informs our creative process, ensuring our designs do more than just please the eye—they resonate with the heart, reflecting a deep understanding of our clients’ narratives and aspirations.”
H!: Would you feel at ease sharing details about your family life, considering that you are a fairly private person?
RR: “Compartmentalising life is not merely an organisational tactic; it is a meditative practice essential to the creative process of a designer. By segmenting aspects of life and work, one can channel focus and nurture tranquillity within each compartment, allowing for a more profound state of reflection and creativity. This approach is a cornerstone of my design philosophy, fostering an environment where inspiration can flourish undisturbed by the cacophony of daily distractions.”
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s December 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!