August 3, 2023 FDCI

Khadi Sutra

His take on the South Indian Mundu with the woven border kara, pleasing monochromes, delectable stripes, and restrained shine, just like the couturier Rajesh Pratap Singh was befitting at his first outing, redefining luxury at ICW 2023.

By Asmita Aggarwal

Since his journey in 1997, Rajesh Pratap Singh has consistently serenaded unconventionality. Add to this his abhorrence for any kind of media publicity even when he recently won the FDCI India Fashion Award, he shuns one-on-one interviews, only giving us a fleeting glimpse of his reticent bow at the end of the show, sometimes that too he skips.

This hasn’t hampered loyal clientele from seeking out deftly executed Ajraks on linen, Ikkats as well as experiments with khadi which he sometimes crafted into natty shoes for men.  His adherence to experimentation, and innovation is unprecedented— like his ongoing love affair with indigo, Chanderi and Banerasis.

You will often spot brocade jackets, dhoti pants, pixelated prints, in a narrative, which he lets you make your own decision about.  Your interpretation can be flawed, but he will never offer any correction with a handout.  However, he is a master of technique and processes——engineered motifs, no bling, wooing intelligent design has been his language.

3D textures, the spinal column is always highlighted in his bandhgalas, you can spot a Pratap from a distance. He has pushed the envelope often by working with steel, aluminium and silver in the past finding new ways of expression in an often-repetitive cycle of spring-autumn collections. In the past, he walked with his artisans on the runway, kept us guessing what his definition of courageous couture is in his vocabulary and this India Couture Week 2023 is no different.

Last year he dressed Bollywood actress Mrunal Thakur in a white button-down men’s collared shirt with tapered dhoti pants and an athletic take on the sari with a rapper Rae Mulla playing in the background urging us to all to look beyond the lehenga and be encased in the embrace of his cocoon jackets heralding the power of construction and clean cuts.

The beauty of Pratap lies in his survival— in a landscape that can’t get enough of embroideries and crystals he shines through without dependence on either. He lets simple patterns, draping, monochromes, and thought-provoking story telling take centerstage with a generous dose of khadi.

At his ICW 2023 line titled ‘Desert Rose’, also a song by Sting, about lost love and longing, was a night lit with hundreds of candles.  Songs from Pratap’s land Rajasthan were from the legendary –Samandar Khan Manganiar, Anita Dangi and Dalu Khan from Barmer bringing with him his hereditary love for the kartaal and folk tunes.

Pratap’s rendition of couture is simple, austere, as faces lit up in the darkness of the Taj Palace Hall, he began with black, refused embroidery, said yes to textures even gold and silver in measured quantities. Hand spun brocades, veils, vertiginous platforms and heirloom silver jewellery, something which artist Mithu Sen who graced the front row would wear effortlessly told us ‘be mindful not extravagant’.

Monochromes, his all-time favourite, were omnipresent, pleated in his classic style as well as subdued shimmering stripes, ultra long trench coats.  His play with red velvet and cowl necks, constructed leather jackets and the beauty of it all is he never feels the need for a show stopper, the audience just floats in organically to see his mastery over the craft and announcing discreetly— just beautiful tangerine flowers can say a lot more than unabashed shine.

High-waisted full skirts with embroidered bralets you can wear as separates. Black dhoti pants anyone with a textured jacket? Velvet angarakhas with a pink touch in the lining, mocha-dripping brocades, his ingenious take on the South Indian Mundu converted into palazzos.  His definition is not constricted by the celebration of zardozi, rather texture, woven to perfection. Just like he got Varun Dagar, a street artist and free style dancer, who you often see performing impromptu at Connaught place when the sun goes down!

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