(October 30, 2021) The clean and contemporary silhouettes that are a perfect amalgamation of tradition and technology have made Rajesh Pratap Singh a distinct name in the world of fashion. His love for Indian handloom and a deep desire to showcase it to the global audience has catapulted him to the league of India’s biggest designers. What began as an inclination for colours and designs in childhood has now taken a life of its own in the form of his label that’s spreading wings across the world.
The 42-year-old started his journey from Delhi’s premiere fashion school which took him to Tuscany in Italy for training in menswear. The schooling ground led him to start his own label, and in no time, Singh became a known figure in the fashion world, thanks to his love for Indian textiles.
Jaipur to Tuscany
Born in the small town of Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan, Singh grew up in Jaipur. Being raised in a family of doctors, his father, a cardiologist, expected him to pursue a career in medicine. However, a then young Singh was already attracted to the world of fashion, thanks to his cousin who was a costume assistant on a BBC production set. Being surrounded by a canvas of desert and rocky mountains throughout his formative years, Singh was fascinated by the colourful attires of the region that were a stark contrast against the plain background. So during his graduation from Delhi’s Sri Ram College of Commerce, he knocked on the doors of veteran designer David Abraham (of Abraham and Thakore) to take him under his wings and make him learn a few tricks of the trade. This exposure in the real world of fashion inspired Singh to enroll in the National Institute of Fashion Technology Delhi in 1994. The training ground helped mould the creative in him, and soon he took off to Tuscany to work at the Italian menswear label Marzotto.
“As a school boy, I always looked up to Giorgio Armani, the way he constructed his jackets. They were modern yet classic. Learning jacket making from tailors at Arezzo was such an enriching experience. They basically mix tradition with craftsmanship. They follow the old tailoring concept in which aesthetics comes first and then comes the material,” he told The Hindu in an interview.
Beginning of an Indian label
Singh was all of 24 when he landed a job at the Italian company, and the place turned out to be a perfect ground for him to hone his craft as he learned that machine and craftsmanship go hand in hand. After an enriching experience, Singh returned to India two years later to start his eponymous label in 1997.
It was his stint in Italy that made him realise that his should be an artisanal brand with strong Indian roots and a modern touch. And since its inception, Singh’s label has been an ideal medley of technology and tradition. This blend caught the eye of fashion lovers when the designer exhibited his collection at the Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week (WIFW) in 2006. His minimalist style became an instant hit, and the very next year, WIFW introduced a line by Rajesh Pratap Singh. His work soon started getting attention in the international world and he was invited to the Paris Fashion Week in 2008 where he played with cotton and organza to create a splendid collection. For the next few years, Singh kept introducing Indian handlooms and textiles to the West through his various collections.
He even joined hands with Bollywood filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali to design costumes for the French Opera Padmavati by Albert Roussel that was staged at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris as well as in Spoletto in Italy. In 2011, this Global Indian became the first Indian designer to be invited by Vogue Italy for a show in Milan. Two years after achieving the feat, he was invited by the Kingdom of Bhutan work with Bhutanese fabrics for the opening of the Royal Textile Museum.
Singh has been one of those rare designers in India who doesn’t dress up Bollywood stars because it’s the common man that’s his muse and not celebrities. “We are never dependent on celebrity endorsements to sell our clothes. In fact, we go out of our way to not mention the name of our clients to respect their privacy. People who like our clothes like them for what they are rather than some strange celebrity wearing it for some strange evening,” he told DNA.
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For Singh, his collection is more about textile and craftsmanship and he has maintained that for decades as he works directly with master weavers and artisans helping them develop their textiles into finer versions in silk, cotton and wool. “When I started out, it wasn’t the popular kitsch and Bollywood representation – I wanted to show a different side of India. At that time, there was a great interest in textiles. The movement, sadly, lost steam in the 90s and now it’s so fantastic to see that it’s coming back strong. It’s these aspects that are our strengths; the variables we get to play with as Indian designers. Our cultural context is just too strong, and that will always be our identity,” the new creative director of Satya Paul told Vogue.
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