By Shikha Kumar
Some time ago Sanjay Garg — the founder of handwoven sari label Raw Mango — decided to revisit the time when women wore ghagras on a day-to-day basis. “We were mesmerised by the rustic beauty of the ghagra worn by the womenfolk of Akola’s printing community. It was made out of a resist-printed fabric stitched into a gathered skirt,” says Garg. This made him trace the evolution of the ghagra over the years. He also turned to his home state, Rajasthan, where women wear ghagras adorned with vegetable dyes and patchwork. He was especially fascinated with the get-up of the Gadia Lohar women, who wear long cholis with colourful ghagras and jewellery. This made him break away from the prevalent sequin-laden, heavily-embellished bridal couture. “Not all lehengas have to be blingy. In most bridal attires, only the embroidery is seen, not the textile,” he says.
Garg is making his Lakme Fashion Week debut this month with the focus of the collection — called ‘Sanjay Garg’ — that emerged out of this new fascination. “The focus has been surface ornamentation. The line mainly uses silks,” he says, adding that he has been working on the label for the last two-and-a-half years. The collection will consist of three colour palettes — pastels that incorporate bright colours, deep hues like gold, and a contrast between the two. The wedding collection will incorporate Indian motifs such as peacocks, deers and parrots (Garg’s favourite). The collection will consist of couture pieces such as lehengas, blouses, kurtas, dresses and even a few saris — all done in his signature handwoven style. “For places like Delhi where it gets nippy, we also have silken bridal jackets, in quilted patterns.”
Having worked with various weaving clusters in India, Garg chose the looms of Varanasi — known for their technical mastery in weaving together intricate designs and patterns — for the eponymous collection. “The entire collection has been developed using the kadwa brocade technique of Varanasi. Kadwa is the ornamentation of motifs using extra wefts. The patterns, which are etched in gold against a silk background, achieve a beautiful clarity,” he says. A firm believer of “less is more”, Garg, with this label, hopes to create a space for simplicity in traditional attire.
This collection is an extension of Garg’s initiative to make handloom products ‘cool’ under his label Raw Mango, which was launched six years ago. “For years, I have tried to change the perception that handloom saris are for behenjis,” says the Delhi-based designer. Famously reclusive, Garg hardly attends fashion soirees. The designer retails his Raw Mango line out of a few select outlets. He works out of a farmhouse in Chattarpur, Delhi. He doesn’t enlist the help of any marketing or public relations companies. Hence, the decision to showcase at a fashion week was conflicting. “Six years ago, no one knew me. But today, I spot rip-offs of Raw Mango. I do not wish the same to happen with the new line,” says Garg. While he hopes that a public appearance would help in establishing a public connect, he’s not sure if he’ll showcase at another fashion week. “It’s difficult for me to plan these things,” he says. There is one thing he is certain about — he will never stop working with handwoven textile.