The Prince’s Coat


The Prince’s Coat

India may be the flavour of the world but its fixation with royalty hasn’t changed

The finale of India’s first fashion week in 2000 with Lakme as its title sponsor was presented by three designers Wendell Rodricks,Tarun Tahiliani and Raghavendra Rathore. Twelve years later,one among this trinity,Rathore,who has kept away from public showings for a while,is clear that fashion weeks are not a stopover in the way he has slotted his brand. “Selective menswear” or “custom made classic men’s clothing” as he terms it,does not benefit from fashion week exposure. “Men respond mostly to classic looks and don’t need repeated showings. I would rather innovate in finish and fabric than by moving away from classic styles,” he says.

Not that the designer who works between Delhi and Rajasthan has locked his couture in a closet. Besides customising high-end menswear through private showings for a niche clientele in Paris,this week he has also been busy dressing up some of the world’s richest men. Rathore is a fashion partner at Bal de L’ete 2012,the 17th edition of the annual ball organised by the Order of Malta,Monaco. Order of Malta is one of the longest serving NGOs and works for health care in more than 20 countries worldwide. The three-day programme in Monaco,that began on Friday and ends tonight,is held under the patronage of the Knight of Malta,Prince Albert II. The theme of the ball changes each year and globally known designers like Roberto Cavalli and Elie Saab have been invited in the past to dress the guests. In sync with India’s ascending cultural and economic impact,the event this year has an Indian resonance and the segment in association with Rathore is titled Princes of Rajasthan.

While Mumbai duo Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla — also known for decadent Indian couture — have dressed up female guests (either royalty or ladies of privileged families) for this event,Rathore has designed for 12 handpicked men who wore his clothes for the Ball. The only lady dressed by Rathore is Princess Catherine of Monaco who wore traditional Rajasthani royal jewellery for her outing. Rathore says it took him almost a year to fine-tune this collaboration. “Once I realised that the Maharaja of Udaipur as well as Amitabh Bachchan support the Order of Malta,I firmed up our association,” he says.

For the 12 modern “princes” endorsing his clothes,Rathore made what he calls “the Prince’s Coats” — variations of the Indian bandhgala cut in a Western way. “I have used brocade but used it over linen waistcoats to create summer elegance. Every piece has India woven into it,” he says. These looks were shortlisted from the designer’s summer 2012 collection but each was fused out of a personalised mood-board based on the wearer’s sartorial and other interests,wealth,career description and personality. The three-day event has been organised at different breathtaking venues in Monaco each with a defined purpose. Attention was also given to details like time of the day and historical significance of the venue while determining the final look. Among the guests Rathore was invited to dress are Rolland Berda,heir to one of Europe’s largest fortunes; Takeshi Fujimori,general manager,Albion Art,Tokyo along with selected rich from China,Chile,and Turkey.

Rathore,who has designed garments for the Olympics contingent from India in the past (and has since washed his hands off government collaborations),wants to engage with an entirely new league of fashion associations. Since some of the people he has dressed for the Monaco event are among the richest in the world and with this wealthy group decreasing in size due to global economic instability,it is important to draw the attention of this group to India,he argues. “In the design process,we asked many guests about the five most prominent things about India and some could only come up with one — the Taj Mahal. That’s such a pity but it reveals a common observation about India,” says Rathore. To expose this powerful group to other finer facets of Indian culture,craft and design,Rathore will invite them to attend the British Polo Cup in Jodhpur in December this year. “Design is business after all and business needs sustainability,” he says.

This also indicates that India’s karma is still seen through curry and couture. Royal finery was the country’s first export in the name of fashion. If a fixation with it continues till date in some form or the other,even at globally watched events,then the idea of India (in fashion) stands absurdly handcuffed. Enhanced by business possibilities on the one hand but regressed in reality on the other. It reduces everything else the local fashion industry makes as “Indian fashion” to just a cliched work in progress. Not fit,yet,for the world’s richest.