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Well-known designer Raghavendra Rathore feels it has become tough to find young, talented people who are aligned with the way the world is changing. He says young designers should nurture an exclusive style of their own and design clothes for people rather for themselves.
"Playing around with what already exists will not help them in the longer run. My advice to young designers is: Design for people and not for yourself. They need to nurture an exclusive style of their own and stick to their brand DNA," Rathore told IANS when asked if taking inspiration from established names would work for young talent.
"The biggest drawback I see in (young) designers is (that they) delve into what's considered the season's trend -- say, for example, animal prints. Instead, they should focus on their brand identity and innovate from the ground up.
"After all, today's customers want to spend money not on the gimmicks that they see on ramps but in products that they believe in. The day you understand the market and your clients, you will eventually become a brand that people would like to associate with," he added.
Rathore has taken the initiative of focus on the issue of design education by setting up his own institute -- The Gurukul School of Design -- in Jaipur.
Talking about the need for such a platform, he said: "The current education may be affiliated with very modern and fusion, but I feel that it is necessary to have education which is holistic and complete -- and away from the yardsticks of modern Western civilisation."
The designer's journey into the fashion world started when he was hired by American designer Donna Karan as an assistant for sportswear segment of DKNY. Later, his association with Oscar de la Renta, one of the world's leading designers, gave him more experience and exposure.
In 1994, he returned to India and launched his "Rathore Jodhpur" brand in Jodhpur, followed by a workshop in Delhi. His design for the classic tailored look and Jodhpur bandgala jacket has earned him a respectable place in Indian fashion history.
Rathore says it takes almost a decade for the trend to sink in and become a demand.
"Almost 20 years ago the seeds were sown to recreate heritage clothing for a contemporary man, it has therefore taken some time, but now I believe the bandhgala and the Jodhpuri breeches are on everyone's must-have list," said the designer, whose client list features celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan.
"With over two decades of menswear experience, the brand is now synonymous with heritage clothing, partly because of an intelligent and evolving customer who prefers to invest in the best that is available rather than cutting corners," he said.
However, Rathore added that "the importance has shifted from the designer to the customer due to the right amount of competition".
"Designer brands are forced to address the demands of a globally-travelled and a cosmopolitan customer to deliver a product which is not only reminiscent of the designer or the brand, but is also the pedigree of the world's best," said Rathore.
Comparing the "then and now" in the fashion industry for designers, he pointed out: "Commercially it is more viable to be in this business now than before; it was much quieter and easy to communicate decades ago but in terms of business, this is the time.
"Our deep cultural values and roots helped us (put) Indian fashion on the global map, which I see missing in the current generation. But the way world is changing, technology has helped both generations."
Rathore's plans for this year include exploring various business opportunities, which are not necessarily related to high fashion retail, but more in tune with giving back to society.
(Nivedita can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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