The Minimalist Of Indian Fashion: Rajesh Pratap Singh
Anyone who has ever spoken to Rajesh Pratap Singh, has only come away with lessons in humility, absolute love for the craft in fashion, and with no regard for the popularity contest in the industry. He’s known for his clean, chic designs that (while he doesn’t use the term himself) are minimalistic. He weaves his own fabrics, and is intricately involved with his garments. Time and again, he’s proven his commitment to textile crafts, like when he collaborated with a weavers’ cooperative in Kullu, in 2017, among many other things. A believe in technology and taking a balanced approach to clothes and fashion, Singh talks about the growing importance of textiles, and the complications of sustainability.
What’s one rule of fashion that you refuse to compromise on?
Well, the rule, is that you have no rules. I think you just keep evolving, keep doing your thing, and making things that mean something. I’m not much into fashion, in the traditional sense of it. We’re in the business, but I don’t look at it traditionally.
What essentially is a classic Rajesh Pratap Singh outfit?
Who knows, who cares? I don’t. The moment the collections are done, I want to do the next thing. Evaluating or appreciating is not my job. What I feel happy about is creating timeless designs, which someone tells me they have had with them for years. When people come and say I had this outfit 20 years ago and I want this again, those are things that matter.
As a designer, what aspects of Indian fashion are yet to be explored to their full potential?
It’s cliché to say handlooms, etc. But you know, we have the variables of permutations and combinations that are only available in India. I think it’s the innovativeness and flexibility we have that hasn’t been exploited enough, or hasn’t been given a fair chance. That is interesting.
What are the challenges in weaving your own fabric?
I wouldn’t call it a “challenge”, but it’s time consuming. The process is a beautiful journey. The people involved are extremely creative, innovative, and it’s a micro world where the people who are working on it, like textile engineers, whether it’s handloom or a modern high-tech loom, get a high out of it. Time is the only limitation when it comes to weaving, and it’s always an ongoing process.
Where do you see Indian textiles going?
Are we giving enough importance to them at present? I see the positive side, and I think that Indian textile has been given, and will be given more and more importance. I think there is a lot of talent out there in the design space, and textile designers, fashion designers, amazing weavers, are already on this journey. And I can tell you, it’s better than before. It’s going to get even better. There has been a growth in the handloom sector and in organised textile, where they are using a lot of mechanical technology-based loom. The future is good.
How have you innovated Khadi for your designs?
One must understand that Khadi is a brand owned by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission. At times, we’ve used Khadi from KVIC, and recently, from Rajasthan and Bengal. On the other hand, we do handspun and hand weaving separately, but technically, we are not allowed to call it Khadi. So, there are two versions of it, and we do both. We work with our own spinners and weavers, and we also work with KVIC. We’ve done a lot with handwoven and handspun textile, which goes beyond the brand khadi.
Do you think India is essentially a sustainable country as opposed to the West, as many voices from the fashion space have pointed out?
Not at all. Completely not true. Personally, I get very irritated with these blanket statements. People who say that have no clue what they are talking about. Sustainability, itself, is a very complicated issue. I don’t have a complete answer for all the aspects of sustainability, and neither does anyone I have met.
But then where does India stand on the sustainability scale?
Sustainability is a human knowledge effort, and for me, it is how as humans, we’re evolving, and I think that we are messing up. This whole drama about natural fabrics being sustainable, or about technology being the vampire is not true. The fact is technology is telling you about the ability to harm. There needs to be a balanced and a very scientific approach to this. It can’t be fables and storytelling, or half-baked truths.
Menswear is still looked at from a festive wear point of view, in the designer space. How have you seen menswear evolve?
We’ve had our periods of uncertainties and loss of confidence, where priorities were a little different, but men have always dressed up. We’re such a diverse country. The higher you go in the social status, or the economic condition, men really spent a lot of time dressing up. Look at the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s. Look at the royalties. They were like virtual peacocks. Indian men have become more confident and evolved in their choices. The classic way of clothing, the banker outfits, have been shunned. We won’t go back to boring, in that sense. We will evolve further, in a better way. I think it will be more responsible fashion.
A lot of what happens in fashion has also become a combination of high and low fashion, like streetwear entering luxury. And, is Indian fashion making crafts more futuristic and relevant?
There are two factors: one’s is the human factor, and the other is the technique. And then, in my opinion, the more you blend with sensible, intelligent, and responsible technology, there will be a future, and it will do well. Luckily for India, we love our heritage. We are not like a lot of countries, where local textiles have become a museum piece. I think we have a good thing going.
Fashion weeks have been going digital, due to the ongoing pandemic. How do you see this shift happening in India?
I cannot tell you about India, but I will tell you about fashion as a global phenomenon. It doesn’t work. There had to be a reset button. We were not ready for the speed, which makes us compromise on a lot of things. And so, we will have to see the industry in a new way. It was bound to happen, the pandemic just accelerated the topic. This industry couldn’t have lasted the way it was moving. 30 per cent of what we were making, wasn’t consumed. A lot of traditional rules of fashion are going to change, and the industry is going to go in a different direction.