Gender fluidity in woollen ensembles

Gender fluidity in woollen ensembles

Prasad Bidapa talks about why he finds designer Rajesh Pratap Singh’s Winter collection different.

Block Printing on wool.

Winter in India means different wardrobe solutions all over the country, with the mildest being in the South while the North can face freezing temperatures. There, summer wardrobes are packed up as winter woollies are unpacked, and a whole new wardrobe comes into play. In the South, a beautiful Pashmina shawl is the only outerwear needed, whereas in Delhi designers vie to present elaborate winter wardrobes. 

One designer’s work that I would like to highlight when it comes to Winter wear is that of designer Rajesh Pratap Singh. His seasonal offerings include beautiful basics and outerwear for colder climes. His work is widely appreciated for the complex development of his fabrics. He maintains that Indian wool counts amongst the finest in the world and all it needs are the correct production guidelines that make the difference. To achieve this, he set up his own looms in Neemrana just outside Delhi and hired the best of weavers to produce his fabrics. His collection particularly stood out at the Rajasthan Heritage Week 2018, where he showed his mastery over the medium with a series of exquisitely made ensembles for men and women. 

This winter, he used an extremely restricted colour palette of white and off-white combined with anthracite black and indigo to send out a collection that is strong and sophisticated. His fabrics were woven into chequered, striped or jacquard designs, sometimes inspired by simple tribal blankets and sometimes by traditional European classics. His block printed woollen fabrics created a sensation, for the surface texture of wool does not lend itself easily to block printing, especially with vegetable dyes. 

Embellished with subtle detailing like kantha embroidery and resist dyeing processes to create a batik effect, his silhouettes were dramatic and his tailoring impeccable. From blazers to greatcoats, and from three-piece suits and separates, each piece reflected his personal philosophy. Gender fluidity played a big role in his imaginative offerings, blurring gender lines as his men wore skirts and the women wore sharply tailored ensembles inspired by menswear. 

There’s no one quite like Rajesh Pratap Singh in the Indian design firmament, and for us, he is truly the most important and cerebral designer in a market space flooded with spurious western knock-offs and copies.