October 13, 2023 FDCI

Sari Stories

The tuxedo blouse, wide lapels, geometric shapes, hints of metallic glitter, ode to charcoals, the boy from Mubarikpur Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango, told us the sari is as cool as a floor sweeping, Paris-returned gown.

By Asmita Aggarwal

What is it about small town boys whether it is Rahul Mishra from Malhausi, Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango from Mubarikpur, a village in Alwar district of Rajasthan that makes them successful in a largely privileged space of design? Rahul studied physics and Sanjay could never even dream of FIT, New York nor NIFT so he studied textiles at the Indian Institute of Crafts and Design (IICD) in Jaipur.

But his show at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in the capital, for the LFW 2023 showcasing, a debatable venue due to the expanse and considering fashion is all about observing the deft details, saw an overwhelming response by a generally tepid audience, with from French ambassador to influencers like Ankush Bahuguna in attendance.  A huge stadium with wooden flooring with empty seats gazing at a volley of glitzy women dressed in Garg’s ingenious metallics was a spectacle. The audience seated on the playground of India’s best athletes, saw guests in chanderi and tissue saris and gajras paying homage to maybe the man who told us that the textile sari was the only timeless luxury, in their Zara loaded wardrobe.

Green, his favourite hue also a moniker for the name of his brand Raw Mango or unripened mango, was replaced by purple this season, minus any embellishment or embroidery just with its starkness and minimal fabric manipulation to give it a semblance of a “worked on” look.

The “baby walk” by models resembled the Japanese aesthetics of bunched up hems as he played with fit and flare. Of course, there was glitter in copper, but the show stealers were not the erstwhile “It” girl from Bollywood Karishma Kapoor, or French beauty Kalki neither was it the dream groover Hrithik Roshan’s new flame Saba Azad, rather drapes in saris that he so effortlessly introduced us to.

Whether it was with one shoulder blouses, floor sweeping gowns with arm protrusions, with hints of shine fitted close to the body, he even paid homage to maybe his secret fascination with everything Japanese—a Comme des Garçons inspired skirts with padding. The big flared pants are everywhere now and making us all happy, but yellow seems to be making Garg joyful, as well as a whole lot of black.

Bunched up dresses, charcoal tunics, replete with Issey Miyake-esque influences in terms of their drape and form like the flying saucer dress was apparent in fleeting glances. His muses have been Kangana Ranaut to Deepti Naval, he admits, the sari is his hero, and the humble sparrow his leitmotif, thus his experimentations with it were enormous— envelope shaped tops to the sari with a tuxedo style blouse complete with wide lapels. Chessboard dresses only the gold replaced the white squares, the sari blouses were zipped and crafted into geometric shapes and some sci-fi influences too.

You wouldn’t expect a magenta from Sanjay Garg, as he calls himself a minimalist, but sometimes I think he surprises himself too. He seemed to be swinging in silhouettes, extremely close to the body and then away from it. The ubiquitous sari with the in-built blouse with a slight shimmer was a winner. He was careful not to display his success, so he gave his “show stoppers” the same value as his models, the older Kapoor walked in a fuller jacket and flared pants in gold ideal for the ‘golden’ girl of cinema.  Kalki Koechlin too, made a blink-and-miss appearance, her glove clutch that hid her nimble fingers in black could also double up as protection in a boxing ring.

Balloon blouses with polka dot perforation, the accessories were metal-esque and you could confuse it with clutching a round metal stone, if you had not looked closer. Is Sanjay Garg important when the sari is diminishing in its reach, yes, certainly as he is the architect of a new India, that is looking at celebrating what is eternally our DNA-drapes. But this quiet designer, away from the spotlight, working from a sprawling haveli in Chattarpur’s Angoori Badi, is back on the runway after eight years, let’s just give him an applause for just that!

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Fashion Design Council of India