“There was always a wish to bring Raag to India. Logistically, and from an organisational standpoint, things fell into place to enable us to do so in 2016, which is how Beej came to life”, explains Ajay Mayor, the man responsible for introducing the sustainable fashion brand to Indians.
Until now, Raag was part of the international fashion community. Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake is known to have collaborated with Gujarati textile designer Asha Sarabhai in 1984 to launch her label, Asha under the Miyake Design Studio (MDS) in Tokyo. She also made Japan-inspired clothes under Raag, which was widely exported at the time. Today, in an effort to revive the brand, Raag has been made available under the beejstore.com umbrella – which is run by her nephew Mayor.
We caught up with Mayor to learn more about the collection and his views on sustainable fashion.
How would you describe Asha Sarabhai’s work?
I do not come from a textile or design background but was struck by the beauty, simplicity and intricacy in Asha’s work. There is a purity and honesty that is immediately apparent. Everything is just so well resolved and thought-through and executed with tremendous skill.
What was the inspiration behind Raag’s latest collection?
The Malevich collection takes inspiration from the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich, founder of the Suprematist movement. Placing emphasis on pure artistic feeling, as opposed to aesthetic representation, the Suprematists used basic shapes and colours in their compositions.
Simple silhouettes, primary colours and tessellating grids of geometric shapes, reminiscent of Malevich’s work, define this collection. Featuring complex techniques that complement the clean lines and shapes, all the pieces are made with the finest handloom fabrics.
What are the special elements included in the Beej x Raag collection that has helped to retain the Indian identity?
All the clothes feature signature Raag silhouettes and techniques, which are inspired by classical Indian textiles. Signature techniques such as reverse appliqué, the jali stitch, and pin-tucks can be seen throughout the collection. The attempt is to explore new ground while staying true to Raag’s roots.
Tell us about the Kora collection.
The Kora Collection eliminates non-essential details to focus on comfort and functionality. Made entirely from natural, unbleached and undyed fabrics that are environmentally-friendly and gentle on the skin, the collection is defined by subtle details such as the various white and cream hues of the natural fibres and the different weights of the fabrics used.
What are the factors you considered in order to create a sustainable and ethical fashion brand?
We started out with the goal of making simple, durable, quality products, in an ethical manner, which we hope would bring pleasure to their users.
In the fashion industry, it is common practice for many aspects of production to be outsourced. In such a situation, especially so in a developing country, it is very hard to ensure that the people making your products are working in a wholesome environment and are being treated fairly. We were adamant about wanting to make all our products entirely in-house. It enables us to guarantee that those involved in the making of our clothes get a fair wage and work healthy hours in an environment in which they are treated with dignity and respect. Having direct control over all production processes also enables us to maintain high-quality standards.
How do you think the handloom sector will stand out from other fast fashion brands?
Handloom fabrics, given their feel, breathability and how they age over time are delightful to wear and have a lot of character. Because of these reasons many people have a strong preference for them.