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Endangered animals have found a voice in fashion

In an interview with Lounge, Raw Mango's Sanjay Garg talks about the Sher Bagh collection that raises awareness about critically endangered animals 

From the 'Sher Bagh' collection
From the 'Sher Bagh' collection (Courtesy Raw Mango)

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Animals allow for an infinite exploration of textiles and embroidery, says designer Sanjay Garg, the force behind the label Raw Mango. “As motifs, I always enjoy researching their forms and seeing how they move and live on textile.” 

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

Raw Mango's Sanjay Garg.
Raw Mango's Sanjay Garg. (Courtesy Raw Mango)

In an interview with Lounge, Garg talks about the making of the collection and why fashion is always more than just clothes. Edited excerpts: 

Also read: The art of creating mindful fashion for Gen Z

How did this collaboration happen?

Anjali is an early patron of Raw Mango. She and (husband) Jaisal Singh have a family legacy of conservation of habitat and protection of wildlife in Rajasthan. We share a similar vision of a world with regards to humans and animals. One is not above the other and the rampant destruction of wilderness and the animal kingdom by humans has been a concern for both of us. We wanted to create a conversation about the idea of co-existence and mutual respect between all life forms through the medium of design, which we began working on in 2018.

Could you walk us through the collection?

The collection's core theme of co-existence is rooted in the certain shared future of animalia and humanity. Sher Bagh reimagines Varanasi silk brocade textiles through highly experimental weaves that feature a mělange of animal forms, intermingling with humans, sometimes separate, sometimes as one single entity.

The collection represents human's extraordinary connection with nature. It includes jackets, blouses, skirts, pants and sarees in satin, quilted, silk twill, organza silk, poplin, with motifs that draw from the stripes of tiger, crocodile, Asiatic lion, birds, snakes, human and others.

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

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

With Sher Bagh, the animals are present for another reason altogether, literally woven with human figures. Traditionally, hunting scenes (shikargah) were shown on textiles, with the power balance resting on the human. In Sher Bagh, we revisit this through 11 animals, ourselves included, woven into a story of coexistence.

In this collection, we ask ourselves is it still the power of man 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 selected animals like tiger, lion, crocodiles, snakes as they are very commonly 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 ongoing separation of human and animal are contrary to the reality: as humans, we tend to view anything else as other. In the end, as at the beginning, we are the same beast, the same creatures whose endowments have led to our perceived supremacy, ironically threatening our very existence, and those of all else.

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

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

Also read: Meet the artists who are giving old clothes a sustainable makeover


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