Raghavendra Rathore: “Capital Will Help Us Engage With More Weavers”

Raghavendra Rathore: “Capital Will Help Us Engage With More Weavers”

Speculation is dissuaded in journalism, but some of us remain prone to it as the simmering background of the questions that must be asked. So when Raghavendra Rathore, aka Raghu–for those of us who make a living around the Indian fashion industry—rose for a warm, pre-interview handshake at Delhi’s Lodhi hotel, the speculative question that hung in the air was, will we have a new and altered Raghavendra Rathore (RR) brand soon? It’s hardly a yes and no question. So it didn’t get asked.

In June, Italian luxury menswear brand Ermenegildo Zegna and Reliance Brands Limited (RBL retails Zegna in India) announced an investment in RR Jodhpur. The deal was sealed at Lake Como after a six-month gestation period, initiated and hand held all the way by Darshan Mehta, President and CEO of RBL.

This three-way collaboration promises to lend expertise, quality enhancement and business bolstering of a wider, deeper kind to an Indian brand. It’s an innovative business idea, but that’s an obvious statement. However, it could potentially open doors for both brands, Zegna and RR, to explore their individual pursuits of luxury—with RBL as conduit—and come up with a series of manufacturing and R&D strategies that become recall-worthy examples for global fashion brands to work together. And, who knows, a menswear collection the world has never seen before. A Zegna Achkan perhaps: made in India, mentored in Italy?

Over tea, green and aromatic one must add, Rathore seemed focused on chiseling the consumer experience. He made astute points about the difference in attitude between young or millennial designers and the old guard (not his words, these last two at least) and emphasised that he doesn’t want to buy media coverage in the colour supplements of local newspapers. He doesn’t want to show at fashion weeks either. He would rather turn to his customers, some habituated to such intense bespoke sensitivity, that they may need a fittings tailor to be flown in on a private plane and then wait for two days till the client freed up to be measured and kitted out. Rajasthan, his homeland remains Rathore’s best anecdotal bank and the Bandhgala a fond punctuation mark in his design journey. Here he talks about creating Indian bespoke luxury without its obvious ethnic markers and how a luxury sale is actually conducted among other details. Edited excerpts.

What does the Zegna collaboration mean to the RR brand? Does this give you access to Zegna’s skilled ateliers and/or co-sharing of conceptual ideas?

Having a Zegna representative on the RR board by itself is a tremendous value, my thought is that we need to understand each other first and then explore various strategical strengths that we can share. For now, our focus is in expanding the footprint and the consumer experience.

You have had international customers before this through private showings, and global orders, so how does this collaboration help you reach out to a wider audience?

The confidence that we needed to explore markets overseas is now within the power of the RR Atelier, a slow but carefully thought plan, in the luxury space is the present direction for our presence internationally.

You speak about creating Indian luxury without embroidery, flash or decorative impulses. Will you change the way you work from mood board to execution after this Zegna-RBL collaboration?

Historically our focus has been in the area of cut, world-class tailoring, the use of most exquisite fabrics rather than creating clothes from ethnic embellishments and geographically limiting silhouettes. The styling in the classic space does not need more than two per cent of ethnic character, which is enough to give a distinct look to the product offered by the RR brand on a diaspora with world-class labels.

What is the luxury customer like? Give us some idea of how luxury buying is actually conducted between your customer and the RR brand?

The first discussion is the most important phase of the journey that a styling house with bespoke specialties takes. Thereafter a personalized mood board is created by a specialist in the design team to offer a 360 design solution, regardless of what the demand is from the customer. If the client wishes to work with other luxury brand products and wishes to combine the bespoke hemisphere from our offering, then we need to engage with the other brands to offer a complete package and a personalized shopping experience. Often the onus of selecting specially designed jewelry, limited edition men’s watches and other accessories complete the look of the clothes that we design and are presented as complete packages. Therefore, the business of bespoke is hardly about being the flagbearer of current fashion trends but instead is a philosophy of humanness, luxury and satisfaction.


Rathore’s focus has been on tailoring and the use of exquisite fabrics rather than creating clothes with ethnic embellishments.

You haven’t been showing at fashion weeks for a while now and has that changed or affected your business in any way?

Exposure to the right audience is always good for the brand to communicate but creating exclusivity which is the essence of bespoke is also an important part of the journey of creating a brand. It has never been for us about the number of likes but instead about the quality of the numbers. We choose our associations carefully and present the brand in a more exclusive format at an exclusive fashion presentation or always prefer gravitating to a more personal viewing format.

How have the signature pieces from the RR men’s wardrobe changed over the years from being classics to contemporary? Or do you still work on evolving but retaining the classic?

Modern technology has made the world of fabrics a scientific space, every year fabrics evolve and set new standards for designers in the bespoke bandwidth to take the lead, to create a more defining experience of these innovative fabrics. This pushes the frontier of simplicity and elegance to another level, as it is much harder to evolve in the classic space than the one which has a layer of embellishments.

How will the Zegna collaboration directly benefit and impact weaver groups in India? Which clusters do you plan to work with under this joint umbrella?

The infusion of capital will encourage the RR atelier to engage with many more weavers than we are currently working with – indirectly having a huge effect on weavers at the grassroots level by connecting to a bespoke label that in return increases the yield many forums and having an indirect massive impact.