Back To The Origin: Seasoned Designer Raghavendra Rathore On The Opening Collection Of His Journey

These are some names that are definitive of the Indian fashion industry: Anita Dongre, Anamika Khanna, Raghavendra Rathore, Abu Jani, Sandeep Khosla and brothers Shantanu and Nikhil Mehra. You’ve seen them take a bow with their showstoppers on countless runways, but we bet you can’t recall their maiden collections. In fact, we wondered if they could too! So we asked them to jog their memories and take us back a couple of decades to their raw beginnings. Here are stories of working out of backyard tailoring units, discovering classic trends from fashion faux pas and more, as the creative visionaries share anecdotes from their rookie days.


Backstage at Raghavendra Rathore’s show 

In this 5-part series (Anita DongreShantanu & Nikhil, Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, Anamika Khanna ), last we have ace designer Raghavendra Rathore, who took us down the memory lane and shared anecdotes from his early days.

How It Began 

“Fashion was not something on my mind when I was in high school. My inclination was towards product design: the ability to create something with your own hands. I was quite a maverick with electronic circuits and could create various things using parts easily available. I was from a village background, and watching people make carpets, and other things without any references amazed me. How can they think of patterns? How does it come to them? Those were the questions that led me to explore. Starting with electronics, followed by robotics and Greek mythology, only to end up in fashion—it was a hard contrast, but I found my path.”


Image from Raghavendra Rathore’s early collections 

First Collection

“I had the privilege of designing my first collection, Jodhpur, in 1994. Brand India was the very premise of my creativity, and I got a chance to display my 55-piece collection at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Madhu Sapre, Noyonika Chatterjee and Mehr Jesia—the leading supermodels of India, walked for the show. We were celebrating the silver jubilee of Umaid Bhawan Palace. In those days, the tendency was to use fabrics from Dubai and other countries. I went in the opposite direction by going to Banaras. In a dingy lane, I came across this beautiful fabric that was being shipped for a film to be shot in New York; it was silk woven with peacock feathers. To me, it was the final piece of the collection.”

Image from Raghavendra Rathore’s early collections 

Hurdles & Challenges

“Finding a skilled workforce to offer the quality I had envisioned for the brand, especially working out of a small town like Jodhpur while having clients in the metros, did present a dichotomy. I started with six tailors that I found in the street shops of Jodhpur. After months of innumerable follow-ups, I managed to convince them to become a part of my team. I had a makeshift studio of sorts, a mini room that was vacant in the house, that became my work Mecca. My tailors and I would sit there to cut or drape. We all shared our lunches and travelled for fashion events together to New Delhi and Bombay, taking pride in the slow growth of the brand together.”

Image from Raghavendra Rathore’s early collections 


“I met Oscar de la Renta in an elevator while I was an intern at Donna Karan. I told him that one day I would love to work with him. He casually replied, ‘Why don’t you come and show me your stuff?’ There I was, an intern who was getting tea and arranging lunches, to suddenly being upgraded to his assistant. I remember my aunt, Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, arriving in New York and calling up Mr de la Renta. She requested him to let me accompany her group of front-row ladies for lunch. He sent me to meet them with his latest collection, and I instantly became a favourite with them.”

Designer Raghavendra Rathore 

Reinterpret Or Pass?

“I am grateful that we are in the centre of bespoke luxury menswear. It is a journey, not as much about us as it is about the customer. Luckily, the brand oscillates within the classics; the designs have evolved with subtle details and techniques but have mostly remained timeless. Therefore, what we did right in the beginning, is still parallel to what we do today. Of course, with a few modern tweaks.”

Reinterpreted sketch by Raghavendra Rathore 

Picture Courtesy: Raghavendra Rathore 

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