Endangered animals have found a voice in fashion

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

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

Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango.
(Courtesy of Raw Mango)

In an interview with Salon, Garg talks about how the collection is made and why fashion is always more than clothes. Edited excerpts:

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How did this collaboration go?

Anjali is one of the first patrons of Raw Mango. She and (her husband) Jaisal Singh have a family heritage of habitat conservation and wildlife protection in Rajasthan. We share a similar view of a world with respect to humans and animals. One is not above the other, and the rampant destruction of the wilderness and animal kingdom by humans is of concern to us both. 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.

Can you present the collection to us?

The central theme of the Coexistence Collection is rooted in the certain common future of animalia and humanity. Sher bagh reinvents the silk brocade textiles of Varanasi through highly experimental weavings that present a mixture of animal forms, mingling with humans, sometimes separate, sometimes as a single entity.

The collection represents man’s extraordinary connection with nature. It includes jackets, blouses, skirts, pants and sarees in satin, quilted, silk twill, silk organza, poplin, with patterns that are inspired by the stripes of the tiger, crocodile, Asian lion, birds, snakes, humans and others.

With this collection we have also ventured into the accessories category with safari caps, plains and brocade.

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

With Sher bagh, animals are present for an entirely different reason, literally woven from human figures. Traditionally, hunting scenes (shikargah) have been shown on textiles, the balance of power being based on humans. In Sher bagh, we revisit it through 11 animals, including ourselves, woven into a story of coexistence.

In this collection we wonder if it is still human power over animals, or can we see ourselves for who we are … one of the animals themselves?

On what basis were the 11 animals selected?

We have selected animals like the tiger, the lion, the crocodiles, the snakes because they are very well known. The collection views humans as a “species” within the animal kingdom and the mantra of the Bishnoi community in Rajasthan as a self-directed model of conservation. The continuous separation of human and animal is contrary to reality: as humans we tend to see everything else as other. In the end, as in the beginning, we are the same beast, the same creatures whose endowments led to our perceived supremacy, ironically threatening our very existence and that of everything else.

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

My design story is about culture more than anything else. The clothes and what we wear are steeped in many narratives, including social, economic and political; that’s why I love what I do.

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