I Am Not A Crusader Of One Craft - Rajesh Pratap Singh

When the ace designer and Creative Director of Satya Paul, Rajesh Pratap Singh, arrived in Hyderabad to launch his first collection, ‘Valley of Flowers’ for the brand, we caught up with him for a quick chat. The designer is known for showcasing the true beauty of handloom and handicraft and using traditional tools to create modern comfort with clean lines and careful detailing. In conversation with Rajesh, we discover his journey, the intersection of fashion with Satya Paul, the “Valley of Flowers,” fat tax and a lot more. Read ahead.  

First of all, tell us about the ‘Valley of Flowers’. 
Satya Paul’s idea is to keep designs colourful, beautiful, bold and make them modern and contemporary and ‘Valley of Flowers’ is an extension of that thought. It basically has visual references and ideas of what happened in the late 60s and 70s, from the hippie tribes, the mountains and the whole beautiful ‘almost mythological lifestyle’ which one read about and saw. It is just an extension of that in a modern interpretation, not taking it first degree literally but having a new version of it.

Being the Creative Director of Satya Paul, how would you describe fashion’s intersection when labels like Rajesh Pratap Singh and Satya Paul come together?
Satya Paul’s core is about beautiful, strong prints, and what I like to do is experiment with textiles; I like to make constructed and little more structured clothing. To answer your question, I would say that it would be a respectful blend of the two ideas. Mr Paul did amazing things with textile and I have a lot of respect for the brand’s heritage; just trying to make it more contemporary and modern. 

From being trained under David Abraham and Italian menswear label Marzotto, to setting up your own brand what has this journey been like?
It has been a decent ride. Working with such remarkable people as a student was an excellent learning experience for me. I was lucky to have good mentors in all the companies I’ve worked with.  The journey has taught me a lot. I was completely raw when I started. In India, what I learnt was more about the textile, permutations and the variables we have; outside the country, I learnt a lot about garment construction.  

A lot of your collections have pushed the gender bias line and represented the idea of fluidity; what prompted the thought? 
We just made clothes (laughs). It was never a conscious thought. It was very natural – constructed garments, structured clothes, mixing of contrast, which is what I started with. I never thought it was about gender fluidity. For instance, we just thought women looked great in suits, so we made jackets for them. 

So was showcasing the beauty of handloom and handicraft an unconscious thought too? 
I like handloom and handicraft and as an Indian designer, it was what was available to us. I am not the crusader of one craft or the other. Yes, the work received a lot of respect, there was nothing more to it. It’s just that I like the beauty.  

Throughout your journey, white shirts are something you’ve kept relevant in your collections; any particular reason? 
I grew up in Rajasthan and a white shirt is something which I grew up with. Every common man on the street, in the dessert and small town, had a white shirt. Subconsciously it’s what I have done. That’s the way I am. I love white shirts, and more than that I love the colour white. Every first piece we cut is done in white; it cuts everything and you just focus on the lines. It’s beautiful. 

 How do you keep your work relevant with time?
You see what is going on around us, what do people want, and what do people want without realizing what they want. At the moment, people want beauty and hope, so we work to bring it about in our clothes. It’s a continuous process where you are experimenting on things and there is also a culmination of some experiments. Because you’re sensitive to what’s going around, a lot of times, things suddenly make sense even if you are not thinking about it. 

A few months back, Diet Sabya called out a few brands for charging more money for plus size clothes, calling it the “Fat Tax”. The discussion on social media also spoke about how this approach contradicts the campaign of some labels that use plus-size models to show equality and uniformity in the fashion scenario. What are your views on the topic?
There are two points of view. Of course, it’s completely irrelevant and doesn’t make sense to charge extra if the size goes up. To me, it doesn’t make any logical sense. The other thing is when it comes to bespoke clothing, when you are making something to a particular size and you’re more one of a kind; then it is expensive. Making one garment is expensive than making a production garment. But just because it’s a bigger size, prices don’t change. 

Taking your experience in count, what would you name as fortunate and unfortunate shifts in the Indian fashion scenario?
Finally, we are getting confident in our own style, and it’s not acquired. Finally, an Indian voice is coming out for clothing, and I think it’s good. The only unfortunate part is that I wish it had happened sooner. Well, as they say, better late than never (laughs).        –as told to Srivalli