Designer Raj Shroff on his latest venture, staying grounded and the future of Indian fashion
Fashion designer Raj Shroff’s label Ravage has been on the fashion runways of India for a while now, livening things up with its archetypal colour, textures and funky drapes. But things are now moving onwards and upwards for the 35-year-old, he told me during a chat in UB City’s piazza, recently. For one, he’s busy collaborating on a pared-down sleek prêt range called Rav+Attic at Sarayu Hegde’s boutique, Bombay Attic.
“It’s for the modern Indian girl. A totally different aesthetic from Ravage,” he explains. Starting at `4,000, it will still have the ‘Raj’ nuances but with a funky new vibe; “for women seeking fashion with a twist,” he says.
Shroff sees other changes in himself too. He says he’s quieter, socialises less, and is calmer. “I meditate, self-analyse, and this shows in my clothes. There’s balance and a certainty in what I do. But underneath it, I’m still the same mad Raj, in love with textiles.”
This new Raj now shows his Ravage fashion only in the FDCI-backed shows (one of the few Bengaluru designers present at this forum), sells in Chennai and exports to Germany, where the proceeds of his sales go to charity. The Germans love him, and he loves that, “There, designers are treated as artists.” He notched up another plus, featuring in Maggie Baxter’s seminal book on Indian textiles, Unfolding: Contemporary Indian Textiles along with a handful of Indian designers like Péro, Jason & Anshu and 11.11.
Shroff is dipping his toes into uncharted e-commerce waters – creating Western wear for a fashion start-up launching in September called Netelier, along with an exclusive range for Pernia’s Pop-up Shop and Exclusively.com. For his long-loyal Ravage clientele, he’s going to be more accessible by appointment at Bombay Attic, where he will also hold previews of his clothes. “Now I’m a little more accommodating,” he twinkles, telling me the tale of a client who recently asked him to re-fashion her own 20-year-old Ravage outfits for her young niece. “These are the things that make you feel it’s all worth it. Today, there’s so much available, but people want what’s different. Working across different fashion platforms stimulates my mind and inspires me.”
“How far has Indian fashion sense come since his debut?,” I ask him. He points to the blonde tourist sitting at the next table in cotton kurti, jeans, braided hair and Birkenstocks. “Look at her. She’s in India, so she’s dressing in Indian textiles, but keeping it simple. And it works. Most Westerners know what suits their body type.
“Things may have improved here but I still feel there’s a lack of fashion aesthetics. Indian women need to develop their own fashion identity, not copy others. It’s good to do the short dress/designer watch/handbag look, but that says very little about you as a person. India has so much to offer — fabric, textiles, colours. We just need to develop that sensibility.”