Raghavendra Rathore On Childhood & Travel's Creative Impact

Designer Raghavendra Rathore’s royal roots shine through as he reminisces about his childhood and how travel influences his creative process
Raghavendra Rathore
Raghavendra Rathore

When you think of the Indian bandhgala from the lens of luxury, the name Raghavendra Rathore comes to mind. The Indian luxury lifestyle designer made his eponymous label famous with his signature designs of Indian formal wear. His style focusses on opulence through subtlety. The designer reveals all about his royal roots, his memories of growing up in Jodhpur, and how much travel impacts his creative output in this candid tell-all.

You've grown up surrounded by immense culture and aesthetics. When did you first know that you wanted to design?

Every child has creativity in some form or interest; my earliest memories are of being able to fix and repair gadgets, sketch out conversations to explain three-dimensional ideas and doodle for classmates struggling to sketch and paint in art lessons.

Could you share some anecdotes about your early years spent in Jodhpur, and how that shaped your career in fashion?

I grew up in a home that was structured according to the stringent Zenana traditions. The upstairs area, a haven for women, was vigilantly overseen by two stalwart figure, whereas the ground floor stood as a testament to masculine gallantry. With its constant influx of visitors for cultural ceremonies and meetings, the latter functioned like a minister's office, yet with a level of organisation rarely seen. It was a whirlwind of respect-filled gestures, announcements of royal emissaries, and the coming and going of turban-clad individuals.

In stark contrast, the upstairs area, adorned with over a hundred lattice windows, resembled the bustling atmosphere backstage at a fashion show. The air was filled with the aroma of paan and other fragrances. Courtesans played music while sellers of Banarasi fabrics, bangle artisans, and jewellery merchants filled the corridors. This experience for me was a feast for the senses, a revelation that would only become more profound as time progressed.

Sketches showing the designer's signature style
Sketches showing the designer's signature style

In the initial stages of my life, my travels were driven by a thirst for knowledge, experience, and learning. Then I spent nearly a decade immersing myself in the captivating realm of New York's fashion industry. Now, travel represents a joyful exploration of life and a way to reconnect with loved ones. My favourite retreat is Narlai, ideally situated on the fringes of a jungle near Ranakpur, halfway between Jodhpur and Udaipur. It's a sublime location that replenishes one's inner energy and has become my preferred sanctuary.

What about Jodhpur drew you to return?

Jodhpur, often called the Blue City, was once ominously dubbed Marwar, meaning “the land of death.” However, to me, it represented a vibrant oasis of culture and traditions. During my formative years in Jodhpur, fashion and style were integral parts of my experience.

Nowadays, the city has evolved into a cultural hotspot and a treasure chest brimming with exquisite furniture and delectable cuisine.

The dynamic 80s in America were brimming with stimulating experiences, both culturally and within the sphere of progressive education. It was an ideal environment for honing a creative mind, even before the advent of tools like Google. Gaining practical experiences and understanding the essentials of entrepreneurship naturally followed. Concurrently, India was undergoing transformative changes, opening up a plethora of new opportunities.

Tell us about your experience living in Paris and assisting Oscar de la Renta.

My time at Oscar de la Renta provided more life lessons than it did insights into fashion. Patience, empathy, and glamour coalesced elegantly, enriching the fundamental values required to establish a design house. As I navigated the world of high luxury, shuttling between New York and Paris, I recognised that my life differed drastically from my roots. However, it was essential to absorb each moment as these experiences were crucial in sculpting the global brand that Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur has since become.

What are a few offbeat experiences in Jodhpur you would recommend for travellers?

Some experiences that one must do while in Jodhpur include taking a walk in the old city through the Katra market, zip-lining at the Mehrangarh Fort and enjoying the vast library, indulging in street food at Nai Sarak, and heading to the iconic Sardar Club for a game of golf.

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