Getting lost in a Raw Mango narrative is one of the easiest things to do. I say this with utmost confidence because I spent a good 30 minutes probing and picking out the images for this piece. Sanjay Garg’s vision is fuss free and minimal in a landscape obsessed with it’s heavy fineries. The man responsible for the reinvention of traditional chanderi and turning it into a staple for contemporary India, believes in holistic growth not just for himself but also for the weavers working for him. We touched base with the designer to talk about the new collection, his storytelling and most importantly, how the brand is coping with the new normal amidst a global pandemic.
How difficult is it to deal with this new normal for the brand with Covid19? What is the situation like on Raw Mango's end when it comes to textile workers?
At Raw Mango, we have multiple teams, including retail, design, admin, in-house production and regional weaver clusters. Our approach has been to address each separately, given their various implications and take decisions where needed. We have been proactive and closed all operations across the company. We are trying our best to strategise and reflect on our offerings for the future by working from home - which is definitely new for us. We are fortunate to be in a position where we can financially wait this out and emerge, having reflected on opportunities for the future. After many years of working with weavers all over the country and building a team that is like family, we have given them work for our upcoming collections which will currently sustain them. The Indian textile industry is connected to the livelihoods of many, from the raw material producers, weavers, dyers, to researchers, designers, tailors and so on. Each one is dependent on another. While some can sustain for some time without occupation, many in this chain are vulnerable and might not be able to, should the lockdown continue. It's essential that we take stock of this and support every member collectively.
How are you personally coping up with the lockdown?
This is a reminder of how temporary things are and that we need to reflect and re-evaluate opportunities for the future.
Over the years you've managed to create this aesthetic, this narrative that is peculiarly Raw Mango. What was the original thought behind this almost paradoxical kind of storytelling that is very Indian, but also very minimal at the same time?
We continue to embrace innovative methods to reach new audiences and share our point of view to employ methods of storytelling that share a broader perspective. Not just aesthetically but in a way that reveals my personality, as well as the brands’ and also communicates our social and cultural views.
What defines you and your practice?
The pursuit of questioning and challenging notions is what defines me.
What significance does the Kurinji flower hold for the new collection, Between?
The motif of the rare blue Kurinji flower, that blooms once every 12 years, is the central motif of this collection that is introduced through manipulations of form and pattern.
Over the past few years there's been this obsession to bring back traditional textiles, to preserve our craft and culture at large. Can you talk about some of the ground level changes that you have (or have not) seen in the crafts community and do you think we're doing enough?
I cannot speak on behalf of others in the industry but we have witnessed significant changes over the years. On my most recent visit to Chanderi, I met weavers whom we have been working with for over a decade. In particular, when we first started working together, one had a single-room home, and he now has an eight-bedroom house. In another example, a weaver working as a guard due to lack of work has switched back to the loom. One of my weavers has bought a car. All of these examples are testament to the power of craft. The loom strength in Chanderi has increased from 3,500 to 5,000, and a sphere of influence has been created.
What is it that inspires you now in the present moment as opposed to when you started the label a decade ago? Where do you see the brand in the coming decade?
In this moment, I am using my time to research, reflect and think of new possibilities in design. Innovation is the only way forward, that can lead to growth. We continue to do so on and off the loom, and course continue to engage a thinker, contributor not only as a brand rooted in Indian culture, but global in relevance.
Text Unnati Saini