Founder and designer of Raw Mango, Sanjay Garg interviews Travel+Leisure India & South Asia on the brand’s latest collection, Peacock Country, how his hometown of Rajasthan influences his designs and finding inspiration in different cultures of India. By Ralan Kithan
Sanjay Garg has been creating new fashion conversations since founding his label, Raw Mango. The brand blends old and new India through its garments and employs artisans from across the country. With weaves like zari, mashrou, and Have a, Raw Mango’s outfits are more than just beautiful silhouettes, they’re deeply rooted in culture and history. Whenever Garg travels, he captures the culture of the place and incorporates it into his designs. His hometown of Rajasthan had a great influence on him and continues to do so. Peacock Country, her latest collection, also tells a similar story.
Excerpts from Sanjay Garg’s interview:
T+L India: Tell us about Peacock Country, your latest collection.
Sanjay Garg: The inspiration is the Awadh region in Uttar Pradesh. It is inspired by the Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb, which symbolizes the rapprochement of Hindu and Islamic cultures. The collection was also inspired by the story of Indra Sabha, the first Urdu opera written by the last king of Awadh. It is a love story set in the court of the rain god, Indra. The idea of the meeting of two cultures was very interesting.
All this is represented by the use of gold and silver zari. We also explored the diverse range of gold and silver fabrics made in Varanasi. We have used different types of textiles in the collection like herringbone fabric, organza fabric, among others.
T+L India: How do you interpret the peacock in your collection?
Sanjay Garg: The peacock is an important part of Indian culture. This collection is based on fantasy and symbolism. There are peacock elements like the headgear that we used for the first time. It’s a bit far from what you would wear in real life but definitely theatrical
T+L India: What differentiates the collection from your previous collections?
Sanjay Garg: India has many stories to tell and we continue to share the beauty of India in our designs. We’ve had collections before that celebrated textiles from different places. This collection is inspired by the Awadh region and that’s what makes it different.
T+L India: How does travel influence you as a designer?
Sanjay Garg: Someone said, “Walking a mile is like reading a book” and I absolutely believe that. So many things cross my mind when I observe a community, its culture and its way of life. Food, politics, religion, identity, everything is geographically centered and there are so many things that you understand better when you observe closely.
T+L India: What are your favorite destinations?
Sanjay Garg: I went to Mexico before the pandemic, and it was such an experience. I have also been to Myanmar and I think it is one of the most beautiful countries I have seen in my life.
T+L India: Which destinations would you like to visit for its textiles?
Sanjay Garg: I would like to explore Venkatagiri, Kanchipuram and also North East India for cup silk.
T+L India: What does sustainability in fashion mean to you?
Sanjay Garg: I think sustainability should be a way of life; if sustainability is somehow an idea of luxury fashion, then it’s wrong. In India, the masters have followed the Zero Kilometer Design philosophy (a belief that designing beautiful and functional products must involve the preservation of local traditions and craftsmanship specific to that locality) and that is why I love the culture and traditions. Each region has its own beauty. If something is produced or made in Manipur on a loom and someone has worn it to a wedding there, that makes perfect sense to me. Or for example, wearing a sari in Uttar Pradesh or lehenga in Rajasthan.
T+L India: What kind of traveler are you?
Sanjay Garg: I don’t like cities and I love to travel in interiors. My greatest madness is to hunt for antique pieces. I strive to explore the craft wherever I go, learn its age and examine it closely. My recent fascination with travel is with plants, weather, and geography, because we have all of those in the textile industry. Everything in this collection also comes from some kind of botanical and ornamental designs.
T+L India: What are the three essentials of your travel bag?
Sanjay Garg: Boroline – this is more essential than a cream for me because my lips get dry. A masala that I make myself. I’m particular about food and love spicy food, so I carry the masala in a small bottle and put it on any bland foods I come across. And a recent addition has been almond oil, which is perfect for my dry skin.
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