Rajesh Pratap Singh
For properly over 20 years, Singh, 51, together with his eponymous label, has constructed a fame for modern materials and sometimes architectural or stark silhouettes. For his white shirt, indigo-dyed denim and R&D with khadi, ikat, wool, and even aluminium and metal in his materials. Research for his first collaborative assortment with The Woolmark Company again in 2013 gave him a positive understanding of yarns and weaves throughout the nation. And this may be related at a time when the coronavirus influence on Indian crafts and handlooms calls for a lot of saviours.
- “At a time when fashion and the tailors, embroiderers, dyers, vendors, and many others who are dependent on it, are teetering on the edge of survival, it is good to have thinking, feeling designers like Abraham Thakore, Ritu Kumar and Rajesh Pratap Singh to take the industry safely forward,” says Laila Tyabji.
- “We need courage as well as introspection, readiness to find new directions and reject old stereotypes. I was excited at Rajesh’s appointment for Satya Paul and look forward to some truly creative and inclusive churning in the way corporate retail works.”
In The Voice of Fashion’s latest Rebuilding Report, Dastkar’s Laila Tyabji writes that designers should “move out of their comfort zones and work with craftspeople in distant clusters all over India, rather than just piggyback onto familiar master craftspeople already in the market”. Singh has been doing simply that for some time now, acquainting himself with “totally different looms and addas”. But the NIFT graduate with a high-profile clientèle that goes properly past Bollywood, prefers to let his work communicate for itself. Often reluctant to be interviewed, he tells me over the telephone from Delhi, “I’m not a very articulate man and I am not very good at expressing myself.” He admits that there have been a couple of adjustments at Satya Paul, some “decluttering”. “Mr Satya Paul had initially done a lot with Indian textiles. I want to visit that again and make it more relevant to the times,” he says. How have earlier collaborations ready him for this stint? “Collaborations are projects. This not a project. This is a major commitment, an energy exchange,” he says.
The factor about sustainability
Happier with the time period ‘modern’ slightly than ‘minimalist’, Singh has begun with a capsule assortment of linen shirts for males (₹4,995) onwards. Jungle themed, they’ve names like Happy Hummers that includes hummingbirds or the Mangal Shirt with tropical leaves and monkeys. “These shirts are a taste of things to come,” he permits, including that saris are subsequent. “When we started talking about the collection, the fires were raging in the Amazon and Australia. We had few episodes in India as well. From that point of view, there were discussions in the studio: on nature, our relationship with it and how irresponsible and ungrateful we are.” Which brings us to the designer’s uneasiness with the time period ‘sustainability’, even when his personal firm has been lauded for its environment-friendly practices.
Into the jungle
- “During lockdown I read a lot. And I discovered a jungle in Delhi (laughs). Its location is a secret but I can tell you it has lakes, small hillocks, rock faces for climbers and a lot of indigenous trees. Like the Dhau, which is native to the Aravallis. And the Salai (known for its aromatic resin). They are such beautiful trees, so beautiful that when they are in bloom, you will cry.”
When receiving GQ journal’s Fashion Sustainability Award in 2018, his brief acceptance speech was about sustainability not being a vogue or a development. I ask him about this. “It’s when you start using these labels that you start restricting yourself. We can’t be the messiahs of sustainability,” is his response. He provides, “To sustain the business we have to be commercially sustainable. There are balances which we have to make. I don’t have perfect answers, and that’s why I don’t like to use these words.”
Satya Paul saris
On the job
We speak about him main the two labels and the way difficult he expects it to be. “The process and the core remain the same, and it is just the visual language that will change. There will be a lot of experimentation.” Will we see signature particulars like bike sleeves on kurtas? “It is a different language in that sense. I have to respect the DNA of Satya Paul. The brand is much more than who I am. Luckily for me, the [Satya Paul] team is fairly large. It is more guidance, and I will act as a filter. It is a more holistic approach,” he explains.
It helps that RPS is understood for creating materials which can be tailoring-worthy. “Probably that is one knowledge I can bring to the table with Satya Paul. We want to work with the finest weavers, the finest printers, craftsmen and the process has already started,” says Singh, whose community consists of the Bhutti weavers in Kullu and craftspeople in Maheshwar and Kumaon. It is why Shefalee Vasudev of VOF says she is trying ahead to Singh’s synergy with “the completely different, almost contradictory DNA of Satya Paul as imagined by its founder and creative directors so far”. I couldn’t agree extra.