Endangered animals have found a voice in fashion

Animals allow for endless exploration of fabrics and embroidery, says designer Sanjay Garg, the force behind the Raw Mango label. “As motifs, I always like to research their shapes and see how they move and live on the fabric”.

He took his interest in the animal kingdom one step further by teaming up with luxury hotel co-founder Sujan Anjali Singh and shaping a collection, Sher Bagh. The limited edition line highlights humanity’s relationship with nature and wildlife, raising awareness of India’s endangered animal life.

Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango.
(Raw mango courtesy)

In an interview with Room, Garg talks about the making of the collection and why fashion is always more than just clothes. Modified extracts:

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How did this collaboration come about?

Anjali is one of Raw Mango’s early patrons. She and (husband) Jaisal Singh have a family heritage of habitat conservation and wildlife protection in Rajasthan. We share a similar view of a world as far as humans and animals are concerned. One is not above the other, and the rampant destruction of the wild and the animal kingdom by humans has been a concern for both of them. We wanted to create a conversation about the idea of ​​coexistence and mutual respect between all forms of life through design, which we started working on in 2018.

Could you guide us through the collection?

The central theme of the collection’s coexistence is rooted in the safe and shared future of animalia and humanity. Sher Bagh reinvents Varanasi silk brocade fabrics through highly experimental textures that feature a medley of animal shapes, mingling with humans, sometimes separate, sometimes as one entity.

The collection represents the extraordinary connection of man with nature. Includes jackets, blouses, skirts, trousers and saris in satin, quilted, silk twill, silk organza, poplin, with patterns drawing on the stripes of tiger, crocodile, Asiatic lion, birds, snakes, humans and others.

With this collection we also ventured into the category of accessories with safari caps, plain and brocades.

Each of your collections tells a story. What are you telling through ‘Sher Bagh’?

With Sher Bagh, animals are present for another reason, literally interwoven with human figures. Traditionally, hunting scenes (shikargah) were shown on textiles, with the balance of power resting on the human being. In Sher Bagh, we revisit it through 11 animals, including us, intertwined in a story of coexistence.

In this collection we ask ourselves if it is still man’s power over animals, or can we see ourselves for what we are … one of the animals themselves?

On what basis were the 11 animals selected?

We have selected animals such as tigers, lions, crocodiles, snakes as they are very commonly known. The collection sees humans as a “species” within the animal kingdom and the mantra of the Bishnoi community in Rajasthan as a self-directed conservation model. The continuing separation between human and animal is contrary to reality: as humans, we tend to see anything else as other. In the end, as in the beginning, we are the same beast, the same creatures whose talents led to our supposed supremacy, ironically threatening our own existence and those of everything else.

Fashion is more than making clothes. It is also a reflection of the society and the time it was born.

My design narrative is about culture more than anything else. The clothing and what we wear is imbued with many narratives, including social, economic and political ones; this is why I like what I do.

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