It was only a month ago that Raghavendra Rathore and Ermenegildo ‘Gildo’ Zegna first met in Italy’s Lake Como. The Indian designer was immediately floored. “I found him very warm, I had studied about him and we spoke mostly about our families,” recalls Rathore, or Raghu, as he’s fondly known among friends and family. “His company’s family heritage was so similar to what you find in Indian families,” adds the designer who put the
and Jodhpur breeches on the global map.

‘Gildo’ is the CEO of a storied, century-old menswear brand founded in Italy. Though the two men, and their families, were only meeting then, hectic negotiations had been going on for close to a year. It finally resulted in an equity investment by Zegna and Reliance Brands into Rathore’s eponymous label, which focusses primarily on bespoke menswear. Although the amounts have not been disclosed as of now, this three-way partnership — considered a first for the fashion industry — will give Rathore’s luxury brand the backing it needs to scale like international companies.

Rathore is quick to give credit to Darshan Mehta, the CEO of Reliance Brands, who he says had the insight, and was the conduit in bringing the parties together. A few months ago, news of Reliance Brands’ interest in labels like Rathore’s was doing the rounds, and although the company declined to comment at the time, the designer had said that he would be open to external investment. “We had been looking at possibilities for good partnerships for a couple of years, but very few people knew how to take the brand forward in terms of luxury,” he explains. “There has always been a nut or bolt missing. The strategic alignment in terms of luxury was very necessary. What’s important here is that all three companies have the same mind set. We are a 24-year-old brand and the timing is just right for us to now explore how to scale up.”

The news had the fashion world buzzing. Sujata Assomull, consulting fashion editor atThe Khaleej Timesand former editor ofHarper’s Bazaar, said it was a welcome development. “When it comes to knowledge of India’s take on the men’s suit — which is the
Bandhgala —
Rathore is what Savile Row is to British male sartorial style,” she says via telephone from Dubai. “The whole look is so international; all the brands, from Zegna to Canali, have done versions of it. To own a Rathore
is a true investment in the way that owning a Zegna suit is, so that is something both brands have in common.”

Retail domination

With this deal, the label’s potential to grow custom menswear and accessories (including fine jewellery), its retail footprint, its ability to enhance customer engagement, as well as to get more sourcing and back-end support, is massive. Access to Zegna’s Italian fabrics and vast infrastructural support and network is a big plus. Rathore did not want to comment on specifics, but did say that the ability to expedite and create products will evolve more rapidly. “There is a time in every society where the maturity of personalisation changes,” notes the designer, in a nod to the bespoke tailoring he creates. Yet he admits that his ability to take his brand to the next level had been stymied in part due to capital constraints. “Through this deal we have resources we can tap into, sitting here in India.”

Opportunities knock

That is quite an achievement for a brand with humble beginnings. Rathore started his line without a business plan. “I finished boarding school and starting wearing clothes that people noticed, and they asked me to make them things,” he says simply, by way of explaining the brand’s genesis. His formal education at the Parsons School of Design, followed by stints at both Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta, honed his sensibility.

He came back to India and built a brand that is today known for its celebration of heritage and revival of royal
style — akin to what Ralph Lauren did for WASPs in the United States. Rathore wants to amplify the look. “We will now have the bandwidth to do what we were doing very shyly,” he says. “We can polish up a lot of the experience the customer has.”

While the focus will continue to be on menswear, items like monogrammed or specially designed slippers, turban ornaments and gold will also be more widely available. Women’s wear, which is a small part of the business — 25 looks are produced every season, typically for special events — will also continue. Given that the Rathore customer is anyone from a Middle Eastern royal to a wealthy Singaporean to an English aristocrat, the luxurious touch point experience cannot be underestimated. Zegna understands that better than most other high-end brands.

We will now have the bandwidth to do what we were doing very shyly

Rathore is what Savile Row is to British male sartorial style

Sujata Assomull

Rathore is what Savile Row is to British male sartorial style

Source: Read Full Article