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Reclusive rock star

Designer Rajesh Prathap Singh tells MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER that he loves to constantly try new things

Photos: RAJEEV BHAT and V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Belief Rajesh Pratap Singh: ‘Designing is also like a kind of sculpturing’

Rajesh Pratap Singh looks like the quintessential haute couturier. There is the blindingly-white fitted shirt and classic deep blue jeans. The long, elegantly greying hair completes the picture of the man who has fashionistas from Italy to Hong Kong swooning over his designs.

However, one must always look out for the little differences like Vincent Vega so sagaciously commented in “Pulp Fiction”. And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, Rajesh sports a little black ink mark on his forefinger, revealing himself to be very much being part of the democratic process.

No ivory tower

“Of course I voted,” Rajesh said. In town for the launch of the super swish men’s fashion retail store, The Collective, the famously-reclusive designer seemed more than willing to chat. “It is a stereotype, of fashion designers living in an ivory tower with no clue about the real world. That is very wrong. I believe in the democratic process. It is important to take part in it. It is easy to sit back and criticise all that is wrong with the country. We need to take charge and make the difference. That’s what I believe, I am hardly an expert,” Rajesh concludes deprecatingly.

The conversation shifts to the dreaded ‘R’ word. “Obviously recession has affected fashion. It has affected everything! And even people who can spend, would rather invest in good quality rather than trashy stuff. Boom time is characterised by more experimental clothes, while hard times would have classy stuff. That is logical isn’t it? Again, I am not an economist but it stands to reason.”

The NIFT, Delhi graduate (class of 1994) describes his Autumn Winter ‘09 collection as “Casual deconstructed clothing for men. I have used Indian elements and given it a modern twist to make it interesting.”

About India being all the rage world over, Rajesh simply comments: “I cannot be anything else but where I come from.” Apart from creating mind-altering clothes, Rajesh has also done some jaw-dropping sculptures. “It is just something I did,” says the master of understatement. “I am always trying out new stuff, you know like new fabrics, new materials. Designing is also like a kind of sculpturing right? Only you design clothes for a living body. It is all in the same language and I have never painted.”


So is fashion also art? “No, never. At the most fashion is an applied art. There are moments when fashion borders on art. But we need to remember the needs of fashion are very different from art. There are constraints in fashion. For instance we are working with a living body for one and then there is a time frame you are working within. While art would have movements, it is not seasonal like fashion is.”

The Delhi-based designer describes his muse as “a certain kind of person, who is interesting and intelligent.”

Approach

Ask him to describe his design philosophy and Rajesh immediately says, “don’t use philosophy, that is a heavy word! I do basic clothes, concentrate on fabric and construction and don’t take fashion too seriously.” My, my we wouldn’t have guessed!

About using fur and leather, Rajesh says: “I don’t use fur. I guess it has something to do with being from Rajasthan. I use a lot of leather though. That is a whole different industry taking into the account the meat packing and the tanneries. I am vegetarian by the way.”

While Rajesh has designed for Sanjay Leela Bansali’s Parisian opera “Padmavati”, he says he does not go out of his way to design for celebrities. “If you are working for someone you admire, then there is that little extra you would put in. But that’s about it. And suppose he were to get into a time machine and design for the French queen Marie Antoinette? “Oh she was a fashionable and flamboyant lady. I am sure she would trash my designs,” Rajesh signs off with a wry grin.

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