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Designer’s collection with Kashmir touch faces heat, taken down from Instagram

The campaign that featured clothes invoking Kashmiri silhouettes and cuts, and shot in the Valley by photographer Avani Rai, was released on October 2.

Written by Ektaa Malik | New Delhi |
October 5, 2019 4:42:09 am
I am aghast: Sanjay Garg

Textile designer Sanjay Garg, the name behind the label Raw Mango, has been at the receiving end of a backlash from some sections on social media for his latest collection — Zooni — that was released on Instagram.

The campaign that featured clothes invoking Kashmiri silhouettes and cuts, and shot in the Valley by photographer Avani Rai, was released on October 2. The collection was criticised as being insensitive to the people of Kashmir, given the current blockade and political situation in the state, and described as “cultural appropriation” and “disrespectful”. The same evening the campaign was taken down.

“I am aghast,” said Garg. “I had been working on this campaign and collection for more than two years. I made many trips to the Valley, I have spent time talking to the people there. The idea was never to hurt or offend anyone. And this extreme anger and backlash, I can’t make head or tail of this. Would this collection have been different had a Kashmiri designer done this?” said Garg, who is based in Chattarpur. “Would I have not been more of an opportunist had I released this campaign later, matlab jab sab theek ho jayega, and people would have forgotten everything.”

The designer maintained that they had initially planned to release the campaign in August, but pushed it back given the revocation of special status of J&K and communication blockade.

“No one is talking to me, everyone has already dissected and interpreted my intentions. I have worked with materials and aesthetics from all over India. I did Heer earlier, where I invoked a Punjabi household. The Cloud People was my collection that featured the North East of India. Matlab, kya Kashmir mera nahin hai?” said Garg.” I wanted people to know what a Kashmiri nikaah is. And they are questioning why I have used and appropriated the pheran, I have used it in my 2015 collection as well. I was even told that many would not know the meaning of Zooni. I said, but a Kashmiri would.”

Rai, who shot the campaign, was also trolled, with some comments calling her work pornographic. She said the outrage was selective. “I have been working on Kashmir for five years. Now all my work has been disregarded. I have had my disagreements with Garg on the timing of the campaign. But to dismiss it entirely, and reduce it all to objectification of Kashmir is absurd…”

About the campaign, Garg said, “ I don’t know if and when I will bring it back. But not like this.”

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