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Sanjay Garg's design philosophy stems from the upliftment of handloom. For Garg, handloom is not just a loom operated by hand; it is about culture, community and craft. In conversation with the textile designer and founder of Raw Mango on the eve of the launch of his e-commerce website that showcases six hundred saris, ready-to-wear and décor items. With a presence in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Europe, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, UAE and Russia, he is looking forward to new audiences on the digital platform.


You are renowned for modern design handcrafted with indigenous fabrics, in particular Chanderi. What inspired you to cast Chanderi in a modern palette, with silver, gold and copper zari woven into it and wildlife motifs, at a time when "sustainability" was not a buzz word?


The challenge was to explore ways in which the motifs and colours of Chanderi saris can still make sense in today's day and age and the interesting possibilities in which we can balance both tradition and modernity. The skill set and the limited use of specific materials proved to be challenging as the loom can only handle certain techniques of weaving. It was also interesting yet challenging to learn to be away from the typical "fashion cycle" but also keep things visually engaging by introducing new colours, motifs and techniques. For example, indigo is dyed much before its end product is available, so how do you stay current between the past and also the future? Innovations and resolutions come in many forms on the loom — major interventions included the addition of vibrant colours and colour blocking in the sari and borders, which were traditionally only gold; introduction of motifs like birds and mogra which were not part of the traditional design vocabulary; and simplified layouts of borders. 


The pandemic is a moment of truth for Fashion and sustainability practices is crucial for survival. What do you aspire to do more of in the sustainability space and what steps are you taking towards that? What are the crucial issues you see cropping up in Indian fashion, post- pandemic?


Overall there is a shift toward more conscious consumption on a mass level, it remains to be seen how large scale production can be sustainable as a baseline. Being able to answer 'why- how- where' are basics and it's important to continue to share that local crafts and heritage are important to preserve, as many livelihoods depend on it. Choosing brands and designers that stand with, support and respect the craft traditions of India will help strengthen and safeguard our local economy and cultural identity. For us, our focus has never been to create something that should be set aside for occasion wear; we need to question collectively why certain garments should be restricted to ceremonial occasions like weddings and festivities through both the garments' functionality and what occasion wear stands for in today's society.


You have a team of karigars you work with from the interiors of MP, Varanasi, Rajasthan. How has the pandemic affected them and how do you feel you could help make them financially secure today?


We must acknowledge that things are changing on a day to day basis and we must action things sensitively and proactively, keeping in mind the well-being of all. I will only speak on my behalf as there is much to be done with a reality that production requirements have slowed. We are fortunate that there is no immediate seasonality to our garments and are treating production to be as lean as possible while providing enough work to sustain teams and weavers.


What can we- the consumer- do to help sustain livelihood and craft of weavers and craftspeople? In fact how would you advise those of us who want to shop responsibly and build an ethical wardrobe?


Now more than ever, we need to re-evaluate how we choose to live and not abuse our resources. The concept of sustainability has more than often been discussed in the context of fashion but what about incorporating it in our daily lives? We must identify with 'restraint' as an overarching approach and advocate a certain degree of austerity by taking only as much as is needed.


Considering social distancing is the new normal and it is hard to gauge when customers will feel safe to shop, would you consider shifting investment online to protect business? Would that work in India without the support of brick-and-mortar stores? And is the vision behind the launch of your e-store?


As the world faces unprecedented times, the way we engage with brands and each other has changed, I believe it is important to embrace innovative methods to reach our audiences. We're glad it's out so we can reach new audiences and also our existing clients.


Lastly, do you feel all designers should embrace technology including QR codes and no- touch payment? Would it propel Indian fashion into a more sustainable and technologically innovative space?


Given the accelerated shift to digital space in the way we engage with brands and each other, it is important to embrace innovative methods to reach our audiences. We continue to engage with our clients digitally as well as over the phone and accept payments online and digitally. In the past, we have offered appointments at our studios; we will continue to do so for customers who prefer to come in to shop. Of course, it's important to have sanitary measures in place which continue to follow health official protocols. 

Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg
Sanjay Garg, textile designer and founder of Raw Mango
Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg
Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg
Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg
Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg
Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg
Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg
Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg
Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg
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