Founder and designer of Raw Mango, Sanjay Garg talks to Travel+Leisure India & South Asia about the brand’s latest collection, Peacock Country, how his hometown Rajasthan influences his designs, and finding inspiration in different cultures of India. By Ralan Kithan
Sanjay Garg has been creating new conversations in fashion ever since he founded his label, Raw Mango. The label blends the old and the new India through its garments, and employs artisans from across the country. With weaves like zari, mashru, and gota, Raw Mango’s outfits are more than just beautiful silhouettes—they’re deeply rooted in culture and history. Whenever Garg travels, he captures the culture of the place and incorporates it into his designs. His hometown in Rajasthan has had a great influence on him and continues to do so. Peacock Country, his latest collection, also tells a similar story.
Excerpts from the interview with Sanjay Garg:
T+L India: Tell us more about Peacock Country—your latest collection.
Sanjay Garg: The inspiration is the Awadh region in Uttar Pradesh. It draws from the Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb, which is symbolic of the Hindu and Islamic cultures coming together. The collection was also inspired by the story of Indra Sabha, the first Urdu opera written by the last King of Awadh. It’s a story of romance that is set in the court of the rain god, Indra. The idea of two cultures coming together was very interesting.
All this is represented through the usage of gold and silver zari. We also explored the varied range of gold and silver tissues that are made in Varanasi. We have used different kinds of textiles in the collection like herringbone tissue, organza tissue, amongst others.
T+L India: How do you interpret the peacock in your collection?
Sanjay Garg: Peacock is a significant part of Indian culture. This collection is based on fantasy and symbolism. There are peacock elements like the headgear that we have used for the first time. It’s a little far off from what you would wear in real life but definitely theatrical
T+L India: What makes the collection different from your previous collections?
Sanjay Garg: India has many stories to be told, and we keep sharing the beauty of India in our designs. We have had collections before that celebrated the textiles of different places. This collection is inspired by the Awadh region and that’s what makes it different.
T+L India: How does travel influence you as a designer?
Sanjay Garg: Someone said, “Walking for a kilometre is equal to reading a book” and I absolutely believe in it. So many things go through my mind when I observe a community, their culture, and way of life. Food, politics, religion, identity—everything is geographically centred and there are so many things that you understand better when you observe closely.
T+L India: Which are your favourite destinations?
Sanjay Garg: I went to Mexico before the pandemic, and it was such an experience. I have also been to Myanmar and I think it’s one of the most beautiful countries I’ve seen in my life.
T+L India: Which destinations would you love to visit for its textiles?
Sanjay Garg: I would love to explore Venkatagiri, Kanchipuram, and also Northeast India for muga silk.
T+L India: What does sustainability in fashion mean to you?
Sanjay Garg: I think sustainability has to be a way of living life; if sustainability is something of an idea of luxury fashion, then it is wrong. In India, the masters followed the Zero Kilometre Design philosophy (a belief that designing beautiful and functional products should involve preserving local traditions and craftsmanship specific to that locality) and that’s why I love culture and traditions. Every region has its own beauty. If something is produced or made in Manipur on a back-strap loom and someone has worn that at a wedding there, t makes complete sense to me. Or for instance, wearing a sari in Uttar Pradesh or lehenga in Rajasthan.
T+L India: What kind of a traveller are you?
Sanjay Garg: I do not like cities and I love to travel to the interiors. My greatest madness is to hunt for antique pieces. I make an effort to explore the craft wherever I go, learn how old it is, and get a close look at it. My recent fascination when travelling is for plants, weather, and geography, because we have all that in the textile industry. Everything in this collection also comes from some sort of botanical and ornamental designs.
T+L India: What are the three essentials in your travel bag?
Sanjay Garg: Boroline—it is more essential than a cream to me because my lips get dry. A masala which I make on my own. I’m particular about food and I love spicy food, so I carry the masala in a small bottle, and put it on bland food that I come across. And one recent addition has been almond oil, which is perfect for my dry skin.