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Interview: Rajesh Pratap Singh on his new 'Urban Jungle' menswear collection

The designer speaks to Lounge about his new role as the creative director at the iconic clothing label, Satya Paul

Designer Rajesh Pratap Singh.
Designer Rajesh Pratap Singh.

In an unexpected move, premiere clothing label Satya Paul recently appointed designer Rajesh Pratap Singh as its creative director. The eponymous label, founded by designer Satya Paul in 1985, brought in a new vision of vivid printmaking into Indian clothing, predominantly on the sari but also on scarves, ties and other accessories. Singh, on the other hand, has inclined towards crafting clothes that are minimal and modern, backed by a love for detailed tailoring and construction. Both the aesthetics meet at a unique intersection of fashion, with a new — and first — menswear clothing collection called ‘Urban Jungle’.

In an interview with Mint, Singh spoke about building on Satya Paul’s work, introducing new textiles, and tailoring and expanding on the label’s menswear offering. Edited excerpts:

You’ve previously done several collaborations and partnerships with other brands, such as Indigo and Arvind Ltd. How does this one feel?

I’m quite happy and grateful to be here. I feel quite comfortable with (Satya Paul) and it doesn’t feel alien. Our job (as designers and creators) is to make new things and hopefully I’ll be able to do that at Satya Paul as well.

The label has a bold printmaking legacy. How do you plan on improvising on that in a new way?

If you see Satya Paul’s history, Mr. Paul did some amazing work which was quite relevant and beautiful for those times. Thereafter, Puneet Nanda (Satya Paul’s son) took over and did some experimental stuff as well. We’ll continue with that process and take that energy forward to make it relevant to the times; a voice that people will understand today.

What people have forgotten is that Mr. Paul’s work with textiles was just as innovative and extraordinary as with prints. With the latter, there’s already a great team of printers who are fantastic. We just need to remove some layers, and for that, sometimes you need an outsider’s view to have a fresh approach, and that’s what my role will be. There’s a lot that can be done with the prints, such as making them artisanal. We’ll try to tell the story with textiles again too. It will all be interesting, new and modern.

The green navigator shirt by Rajesh Pratap Singh x Satya Paul
The green navigator shirt by Rajesh Pratap Singh x Satya Paul

Your eponymous label’s aesthetic comes across as clean and minimal. Will that have an influence on your work at Satya Paul?

I never try to fall into labels such as ‘minimalism’. It’s more about how we see and perceive things and then work honestly with them. It’s just as possible that Satya Paul might change me and not the other way around, but the brand has always been about breaking the rules, and maybe I’ll get to do that here too. While our work will have Satya Paul’s bold and colourful DNA, there’s no pressure on us or dictate to be like anything. We’ll work with what comes naturally to us and go ahead with that.

It’s the first time Satya Paul has done a menswear clothing collection. Why take inspiration from the jungle? Will there be more menswear coming from the brand?

The underlying theme of the collection is nature, and it’s something that we should be talking about more. It’s more about what we’ve done with nature and how we need to respect it more, under the symbolism of the jungle. The Amazon rainforest was on fire when we start working on this collection, and it was followed by the fires in Australia…and then the whole world fell apart. We wanted to address what humans have done to nature with visual references that weren’t preachy, especially because we saw a clear gap in this not being done before. It fits in beautifully with Satya Paul; with interest, modernity and humour.

It’s our first menswear clothing collection that will keep evolving further, strongly. While we’ve previously made accessories such as bags, ties and cufflinks, but never clothing for men, which I want to push forward. The language at Satya Paul is so refined and clear; it’s an opportunity to have collections for men and women.

How do you plan on using tailoring and construction techniques in the label’s clothes?

Satya Paul had a small, women’s Ready-To-Wear line, which we’ll keep exploring for seasons to come. While the Spring/Summer 2020 collection had some of it, the next collection will see developments in silhouettes with the prints. It’ll push the envelope for tailoring and construction. Simultaneously, the textile innovations will carry on in the saris.

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