Internationally acclaimed fashion designer Raghavendra Rathore offers a heartfelt insight into his glorious journey of creative inspiration, quiet luxury, and trysts with royalty.
In this enchanting world where the threads of fashion and culture intertwine, the artist in me often finds itself walking through the labyrinthine corridors of time, weaving together an intricate tapestry of heritage, luxury, and royalty. And as I face these multiple avenues, I’m struck with the reminder that fashion is not merely an art form—it is a profound mirror that reflects the dynamic evolution of societies, captivating stories of diverse cultures, and the invaluable legacy of generations that continue to live with us. I would love to take you on this deeply personal journey of discovery. Do come along!
REWINDING TO RESPLENDENCE
Growing up amidst the regal landscapes of Rajasthan, where history is etched in every stone and tradition dances in the desert breeze, I imbibed a deep connection to India’s rich heritage from an early age.
It was from here that I developed a special fascination for the classic silhouettes of Indian menswear. For me, the Bandhgala, a close-neck jacket, was more than just an outfit—it was a symbol of grandeur and refined taste, often adorned by the royalty and nobility of yesteryears. And with this, began my intense engagement into the richness of
While on this artistic path, I attempted to transcend conventional boundaries of creativity—a voyage that delves into the very essence of human expression. It became evident that fashion, often perceived as a manifestation of personal style, represents so much more! It stands as a tangible embodiment of the collective memory of civilisations, a canvas upon which cultural narratives are carved, and a conduit through which history whispers its tales.
If one observes closely, every sketch ever created is an ode to the past. Fashion trends in the contemporary world often venture into the annals of history, drawing inspiration from different eras. This fascination with history stems from the timeless appeal of aesthetics and motifs that have left an indelible mark on culture. The past holds treasures waiting to be rediscovered, reinvented, and presented in a way that feels fresh and relevant.
REALMS OF UNDERSTATED FINESSE
As a young man just out of school, my creative thirst led me to explore fashion from a fresh lens. Pure class and classic simplicity began to define my tailoring style. My trademark ‘cut’, along with a focussed enhancement of the body silhouette and providing a trim and upright look to all body types, gained instant eminence. But at the same time, I also wished to understand the soul of each design by tracing its roots to the cultural tapestry of India.
It was in this pursuit that the concept of quiet luxury resonated deeply with me. While luxury often echoes opulence, quiet luxury is about a subtle elegance, a language spoken through intricate craftsmanship and exquisite materials. It reflects the regal charm of traditional Indian clothing, where every stitch carries the weight of centuries of culture. This concept became the foundation of my creative evolution.
Travel, too, played a huge role in bringing together a wider perspective. It gave me a thirst for knowledge, experience, and learning. Back then, those trips were like fuel for inspiration. Today, however, travel represents a joyful exploration of life and a way to reconnect with loved ones. One of my favourite retreats is Narlai, ideally situated on the fringes of a jungle near Ranakpur, halfway between Jodhpur and Udaipur. It’s a sublime location that replenishes one’s inner energy and has become my preferred sanctuary.
This is why, looking back, I realise that my initial trips to New York—I studied at the Parsons School of Design, after which I worked in Manhattan under Oscar de la Renta and Donna Karan, before launching my own label in 1994—actually provided more life lessons than did insights into fashion. Patience, empathy, and glamour coalesced elegantly, enriching the fundamental values required to establish a design house. As I navigated the world of high luxury, shuttling between New York and Paris, I recognised that my life was drastically different from my roots. But it was essential to absorb each moment, as these experiences were crucial in sculpting a global brand.
The rich culture of Rajasthan nurtured my creative spirit. From the timeless elegance of Saif Ali Khan to the regal presence of Maharajas like HH Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur, each encounter was a testament to the power of clothing to convey individuality, while upholding the cherished tenets of tradition.
Over time, fashion has progressed to become a fluid expression that morphs and evolves with time. The Bandhgala, once reserved for formal occasions, now seamlessly blends with modern aesthetics. It’s a tribute to the harmonious coexistence of tradition and current trends.
I also had the privilege of creating a distinguished look for the teams at Umaid Bhawan Palace and Taj Vivanta properties in India, Zambia, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. The process began with a meticulous selection of blended fabrics, catering to all-weather demands and endurance, aligning with our commitment to durability and comfort. The inspiration for the hotel staff ’s coats stemmed from the iconic Bandhgala styles, refined into a sleek and stately silhouette with clean lines, embodying timeless sophistication. The trousers, featuring structured lines and slim cuts, emphasised both form and function, resonating with the Taj Group’s classic sensibilities.
Flap and bone pockets, serving practicality and structural elegance, were strategically placed, while cuffs and collars displayed vibrant tones and textured embroidery, reminiscent of palace architecture. Brass buttons offered subtle regal accents, and thread embroidery
conveyed formality. The doorman’s uniform bore a unique thread detail symbolizing the hotel’s gateway and the city’s hues. Essentially, the Taj Group uniforms express timeless elegance and enduring impact, weaving functionality and style seamlessly. It was a project I enjoyed working on very much!
A FASHIONABLE FUTURE
Today, as the world embraces digital transformations, the magic of fashion hasn’t been left untouched. At the forefront of this transformation are solutions that bridge the gap between heritage and innovation. Within the digital gateway, a new age of traditional luxury is born. People can now opt for customisation online and get access to a digitalised bespoke experience that harmoniously fuses the human touch with the convenience of technology. In this space, they don’t just select outfits, but partake in a creative dialogue with designers, envisioning and crafting their attires virtually. This goes beyond convenience; it forges a connection, a shared voyage, if you
will, culminating in the creation of unique masterpieces. This digitalized experience enhances the appreciation of craftsmanship, making it accessible and engaging for a global audience.
The landscape of Indian fashion gleams with shimmering promise on the global stage. The intertwined dance between heritage and modernity continues to captivate hearts, spanning geographical borders and generational divides.
For me, a lot of this must be credited to the landscapes of my homeland and the echoes of its traditions that are ever-present in my designs. These creations go beyond mere garments; they are homages to the royal legacy of Rajasthan, celebrations of quiet luxury, and
tributes to the dynamic spirit of the modern Indian man—timeless magnificence of tradition illuminated by the light of the present.