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'Pretty faces can't sustain in fashion'

Exclusive and reclusive, he speaks only when he’s collared. Raghavendra Rathore talks ramp with Umesh Jivnani.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2008 13:05 IST
Umesh Jivnani

At the age of 41, he is acknowledged as the most good-looking and best turned out designer in the fashion world.. even by his peers. From the former royal family of Jodhpur, he is the only designer in the country whose label does not go on discount sales. Exclusive and reclusive, he speaks only when he’s collared, so here’s Raghavendra Rathore talking ramp with Umesh Jivnani.

At this time’s Fashion Week in Delhi, you once again stuck to your prêt style of sharp wearable clothing. Aren’t you just going with the trend today?
Following trends abroad may mean business profits. In India things are very different, trends are just superficial strokes which don’t impress anyone besides the fashion fraternity. Originality, with an Indianness, is more
important at my presentation at fashion weeks.<b1>

You’ve been known to mix the ethnic with a strong accent of the western. Is that because of your training background as a fashion apprentice in the US?
My training has little to do with what now is seen as the ‘Rathore Jodhpur’ look. I have learnt to evolve with the market demands.. with subtle changes in my look.

Why haven’t you ever designed ornate bridal ethnic wear despite your traditionally vibrant background?
I believe that my training at the Parsons School has given me the ability to do almost any discipline of design. But time is very precious to me. I’m spending it on developing my company into an institution which doesn’t require the head designer to be there 24x7.

As a designer, what comes more easily to you.. dressing men or women?
Frankly both.

Is it true that your label never goes on a sale?
We don’t have any dead stock at the end of the year, if that answers your question.

Many critics feel that your clothes lack drama and sometimes tend to get repetitive, safe and border on the
boring. How do you handle such criticism?
Consistency is the new magic word in fashion, it is important for me to meet the targets set by my financial team season after season. Calvin Klein visited me in Jodhpur and we had had a major discussion on how to take our work forward.. tracking a client’s emotion.. his or her desire is much more valuable to me than a sensational fashion presentation which will be forgotten within six months.

In the last five years, have you catered more to the Indian or the overseas market?
I have come back from New York after nine years of hard work. For me, India is the market of the future.

What’s happening with your brand of designer chocolates?
Is it as successful as you would have wanted it to be?
The Les Chocolates de Jodhpore brand was an unexpected super hit. Presently, I’m looking for a good business partner. I hope to take it to the Dubai markets through a good distributor.

After designing for the film Eklavya, will you be pursuing film designing?
If I can give an aesthetic contribution to a project, why not?

Despite being big in Delhi, you don’t really have a strong visibility in Mumbai yet. What is your retail and marketing plan for other parts of India?
About a year-and-a-half ago, I had observed the restlessness in the Indian retail market and chosen to take a step back till things settled down. It’s time for me to gain more visibility in Mumbai. I’m working on it.

Have Fashion Weeks helped you?
I’d say Fashion Weeks are charming places to propagate your vision.. the business aspect of fashion is still done in the boardrooms.

Evidently, you stay away from the Delhi social scene and keep a low profile in your private life. Do you have any designer friends?
Most of the designers are good friends but only few of them are generous, good friends.

Which Indian designers do you admire?
Those who don’t show desperate behaviour.

What is the most over-hyped thing about your profession?
The notion of setting trends at Fashion Weeks.

Most people know you more for your good looks and royal lineage than your clothes. Surely there must have been many acting and modelling over the years?
A pretty face cannot sustain in fashion for more than half a year, surely the product that I offer has a lot more to do with where I am today.

As for acting or modelling, there are so many who are doing a better job than I could ever have attempted.