The cover girls of our January 2021 issue are wearing a wonderful fusion of tradition and modernity, thanks to a vibrant collection from Raw Mango. We speak to the brand’s founder and textile designer, Sanjay Garg, about the collection, sustainable fashion, and measured innovation within traditional textile practices. By Aindrila Mitra
1. Our cover shoot has been styled in Raw Mango’s latest collection, Moomal. What was the inspiration behind it?
Moomal is from an old love story from Rajashtani folklore, but more about a woman who lives by her own rules, unafraid to embrace customs and rituals while still upholding her values. She doesn’t shy away from traditions but seeks a balance. I was born in Rajasthan, and a collection drawing from the state has evolved over the years. This collection, in particular, draws from a continued lens of questioning the perceptions of classic and folk.
2. How does travel inspire you as a designer?
Travel opens the eyes, mind, and heart. My love for collecting textiles and antiques has led me to various corners of the country and abroad. Travel is a part of my work, and like all inspiration, it is not easily defined.
3. You work closely with handlooms and artisans. What are some of your favourite Indian weaves?
Chanderi is one of my favourites. Raw Mango began with the innovation of this textile, and I am glad it has found renewed interest since then. We have always tried to engage with the visual vocabulary of India through measured interventions within traditional practices, and also by revisiting earlier processes of engineering garment patterns on the handloom. These interventions continue to inform each collection, and I have love for all the textiles we create—and the ones I collect.
4. How challenging has this pandemic been for you? What have been the key learnings?
Like any other business, our sales have been impacted. It’s important to remember that global economic growth is a function of many years—this is a pivotal moment within it. In the long term, I know the industry will remain strong and vibrant, and that’s the vision we are working towards. Also, like most, we are innovating and adapting to changing needs. We launched our online store, and that has been a turning point. Consumers can now shop from the comfort of their homes.
5. Do you see any shift in terms of consumer behaviour post COVID-19?
We’re glad we have launched our website recently and that is definitely helping us reach new audiences and also our existing clients. I feel consumers are re-evaluating how to live and not abuse existing resources. The concept of sustainability has often been discussed in the context of fashion but what about incorporating it in our daily lives? I feel people are trying to identify with ‘restraint’ as an overarching approach, and advocate a certain degree of austerity.
6. How important is sustainable fashion to Raw Mango?
Sustainability is a bigger word, and it goes beyond a trend. For it to become a foundation, there is still a lot of work to do—not necessarily from designers alone. The media, the government, and the weavers have a role to play.
7. ‘Vocal for Local’ is the buzzword today. How does your brand support local craftspeople?
The brand’s relationship with handloom began a decade ago. There is always going to be a need for local commodities and businesses; this, among other things, is what contributes to a nation’s identity and individuality, and also socio-economic development. It’s time we stop looking outside and turn inwards to rely on our own. With karigars across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Varanasi, it has been our priority at Raw Mango to ensure ethical treatment and fair wages.
8. Your favourite Raw Mango outfit?
It’s a blue kurta from the festive 2020 collection Moomal. It exudes all the things I love about Rajasthan.
9. Any trip in India that left its mark on you?
My recent trip to Rajasthan. We were shooting for Moomal, and even though I am from the state, I fell in love with it all over again.
10. How would you define the Raw Mango aesthetic? In what ways has it evolved since you started?
For me, design is a way of life. You need to think about how your home looks, what your world looks like, and what that design can offer you. For example, everyone talks about weavers, but why doesn’t anyone talk about the leather tanner and the potter? They are artisans too. We continue to embrace innovative methods to reach new audiences, to employ methods of storytelling that share a broader perspective—not just aesthetically but in a way that reveals my personality, as well as the brand’s, and also communicates our social and cultural views.
11. Three styling tips for women?
Always dress for yourself first, be comfortable, and remember that beauty takes many forms, not just the socially sanctioned one.