Raghavendra Rathore & Obeetee: A Royal Tapestry

Obeetee’s third collaboration in its ‘Proud to Be Indian’ carpet series has seen it join hands with leading couturier Raghavendra Rathore – and the recent revelation are ethereal works of art

By: Suman Tarafdar

Posted on: February 24, 2020

Raghavendra Rathore captures the essence of Indian design aesthetic perfectly. And then some. As a leading couturier of the nation for more than a quarter of a century, Mr. Rathore may be best known for his revival of the bandhgala and putting Jodhpur on the global fashion map. This multifaceted genius has, over the years, surprised even his most ardent fans with his varied range of artistic expression.

Raghavendra Rathore Obeetee Proud to be Indian carpets collaboration

The latest expression of this talent comes via a product that has slowly become part of India’s fashion lexicon – the erstwhile humble carpet. Mr. Rathore and Obeetee, a leading manufacturer of hand-knotted and hand-tufted rugs in India, collaborated for the carpet brand’s ‘Proud to Be Indian’ (PTBI) series. 

PTBI is a unique concept that showcases high-end boutique pieces, created by India’s leading fashion designers. OBEETEE’s vision to introduce the incredible Indian craft to the rest of the world sees the coming together of India’s dexterous designers to display couture floor coverings that have never been woven before. While Mr. Rathore has designed the third edition, the previous two editions were conceptualized by designers Tarun Tahiliani and Abraham & Thakore.

“These regular collaborations with pre-eminent Indian designers help us explore fresh palettes as well as set trends that are grounded in contemporary design sensibilities, yet are true to the Indian ethos that OBEETEE stands for,” said Rudra Chatterjee, Chairman, OBEETEE. “It’s like holding up a canvas of historical influences and rich textile wisdom that is so intrinsic to India, yet all laid out with a healthy nod to modern techniques and structures.”

Raghavendra Rathore Obeetee Proud to be Indian carpets collaboration

A Trident Approach

Talking about the collection, which is based on three design structures - Durbar Gaadi Masand, Rajasthan Architecture and Coat of Arms, Mr. Rathore said, “The collection epitomises old-world luxury and has the essence of a bygone era. The Marwar region, specifically Jodhpur, is the core inspiration for all ideas and vision behind the look and feel of these carpets. We have experimented heavily with paisleys, asymmetrical designs and unusual patterns to create unique design sensibilities taking references from the past.”

Mr. Rathore’s creations have always been renowned for the sumptuous scale of history, heritage and traditional vocabulary of design and craft embedded in them. However, for OBEETEE’s PTBI collection, he has dived even deeper into the royal grandeur that epitomizes Rajasthan, spending nearly five years working on the designs. “I warned Rudra that it would not be like many other designers who design in six months. It’s been our longest association and its lovely because we have learnt a lot. It’s also been a discovery in a way, as menswear tailoring is about silhouettes, physical control of form, drape and shoulder, off shoulder… Here you are looking at a flat surface, so you are amplifying the print logic.”

Raghavendra Rathore Obeetee Proud to be Indian carpets collaboration

The story, the inspiration, the colors – all had to be devised, revised and finalized, keeping some unique facets in consideration. Exploring the depths of his labyrinthine brain, Mr. Rathore wanted to do three things: “One, open the Pandora’s box on what’s in the attic – stories from the past and make it more relevant. The second was about modern trends. If you see the colours, they are very unmasculine – even though Obeetee team thinks they are very masculine, I still think pink is not masculine until you know how to wear it. So, the pink carpet or the yellow carpet that have sold are actually triggers for us to learn. The black and white did really well. The most important was that we did want it to be limited to the geography of India. You are not designing for a market now, you are designing for the appeasement of a global customer. With these three pillars, the design team worked very meticulously.”

The collection has taken shape over many drafts that bear resolute testimony to his signature attention to detail. A member of the royal family of Jodhpur, the distinguished designer has explored motifs, colours and patterns that are not just emblematic of his aristocratic lineage but are also finely nuanced with timeless lore. The exquisite craftsmanship is vibrant with detailed embroidery, intricate weaves and asymmetrical designs—all tirelessly put in place by weavers from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh.

Raghavendra Rathore Obeetee Proud to be Indian carpets collaboration

Each of the collection’s three variants have a unique background. The ‘Durbar Gaadi Masand’, rendered with opulent embroidery in velvet, derives inspiration from the textured royal settee used by kings and queens in durbars (courts) of yore. The artwork in ‘Rajasthan Architecture’, on the other hand, borrows inspiration from majestic arches and structural design elements—including mirror work and brightly painted religious figures—of the Sheesh Mahal in Mehrangarh Fort. The third variant, ‘Coat of Arms’, is an offbeat showcase of logos, emblems, insignias and monograms of Rajput princely states and jagirs (estates).

Mr. Rathore points to the insignias and articulates: “Today it’s RR. Tomorrow it could be your initials. They are willing to make carpets for brides and grooms who are getting married. It gives them [Obeetee] a new dimension to market themselves, which was something new for them. Also, we didn’t want to keep it very Rajasthani, so we got inspiration from Mysore, Kashmir… A person from Bihar said he could see a little bit of Bihar in it! The idea is that these are going to be in someone’s house for a lifetime.”  

Raghavendra Rathore Obeetee Proud to be Indian carpets collaboration

A collaboration is also just that – a long term shaking of hands to give birth to a vision which not only benefits the collaborators, but also inspires respect for each other’s craft, while taking ahead the industry in novel ways. “It’s been a lovely journey with Obeetee,” points out Mr. Rathore. “The vision coincides in such lovely ways. Rudra is a Medici in action, and living it. To me, it’s been a learning curve, with a lot of cooperation to work with. If you want to fix the problems surrounding ‘Made in India’, keeping in mind sustainability, it has to start like this –inspire designers to build their mood boards which are sustainable, which will, therefore, inspire the weavers.” Indeed.

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