Animal Conservation

“The idea was to keep nature, humans, animals on the same pedestal”: Sanjay Garg on his new collection “Sher Bagh”

Fashion designer Sanjay Garg was born in Sariska in Alwar where in 2005 all 17 tigers went extinct, as reported by a wildlife committee set up by the government of Rajasthan. The shocking incident, which has been called “the biggest wake-up call in the country’s conservation history,” left its mark on what Garg calls his “sleeping conscience.” He did not know then that 16 years later he would design a collection in collaboration with Anjali Singh, co-founder and creative director of Sujan, dedicated to “Sher Bagh”, the delicate but vital balance and coexistence of nature and wildlife that has been forewarned somewhere in history.

In the words of Anjali Singh. “Sher Bagh salutes the inherent and intrinsic connection of the human species with its natural environment and its diverse habitats. It’s a connection that frayed at the edges but can be rekindled. “

The Sher Bagh collection by Raw mango and Anjali Singh.

In conversation with indianexpress.com, Garg shared his inspiration behind Sher Bagh, how he believes the harmony between humans and wildlife has been shaken, and why he is always reinventing what his brand stands for.

Anjali Singh also shared with us her take on the collection, collaborating with her longtime favorite raw mango, and how she has seen the changing animal landscape in Rajasthan.

Tell us about Sher Bagh. How was the collection born?

In the Indian textile vocabulary, we have so many animals – monkeys, tigers, parrots, and Anjali collected these textiles herself. In the last few years that we have met, she has expressed her interest (in curating a collection). After staying at Sujan in Jawai I came back completely amazed because it was so beautiful. I said to him, ‘Let’s do something together’, and that’s how this story unfolded.

What interested me to explore was the shikargah in Mughal times, when paintings of the time showed men in power taking power over animals. And when the British came along, it almost became a marker of social stature that everyone had to kill a lion or a cheetah and have a photo. It was like a jewel in their crown. Of course, hunting was subsequently banned in India. But as I always say, traditions are great, but do we have to show the same visual imagery where animals are shown as being killed by humans? What is the current context of shikargah? What is this visual imagery? How do we present the human-animal relationship today? In a way, it’s a kind of exploration, awareness and also finding out what that relationship looks like. This is what fascinated me in terms of textiles, my outlook on society, my commentary, my expression.

sher bagh, raw mango, sanjay garg The Sher Bagh campaign.

What made you want to collaborate with Anjali Singh?

We all know certain things, but it’s interesting to see when someone comes up with some expertise in this matter. Like her, who has spent her last two decades in the jungle and working in conservation. His uncle, Valmik Thapar is an authority on tigers. And even though I was aware of the bigger issues, I wasn’t aware of the numbers, of what was done, I didn’t even know there was a leopard in Jawai! Also, Anjali went to Central Saint Martins, so it was interesting to work with her on this collaboration.

Sher Bagh talks about coexistence with nature and wildlife, a philosophy deeply rooted in us Indians, and the way our ancestors led their lives. Where do you think this balance has shifted and why?

In fact, we figured it out a long time ago, I think. Jainism and Buddhism advocate a culture that respects animals. As for me personally, I do not eat animals for my food, which people have been practicing for several thousand years. As the fabric of society, culture, and geography changes, so do many influences. There are a lot of invaders who came with their own ideas, including the British. At the same time, I don’t want to generalize this image of the past because there are also a lot of people and communities who are involved in wildlife conservation.

There are always good and bad people. When the invaders arrived, killing animals became a source of pride. When you live in this day and age, you don’t even know what you’re doing wrong right now. Like climate change, so much has happened for hundreds of years, and all of a sudden we’re trying to wake up. So, I don’t really know who to blame.

I am from Sariska in Alwar, Rajasthan which is one of the worst examples. We have lost all the tigers. We had such rich wildlife and we took that for granted. It impacted me growing up. It was in my sleeping consciousness.

sanjay garg, raw mango, sher bagh Silk has also been used to create a fur-like texture.

How did you translate the inspiration behind Sher Bagh into the tangibility of the pieces?

We have looked at a lot of things to understand and translate inspiration – the Vedas, the Quran, the Tantric texts, the Buddha texts and other sources. There I read that we are one of the animals created by God, and it stuck in my head. We have imagined textiles in which you see an immersed human representation. We made a stripe that looks like a tiger as well as veins on a leaf. The idea was to keep nature, man and animals on the same pedestal, in a way.

The clothes are perfect for safaris, but with a touch of luxury. We’ve created a throw that you can slip on on open jeep safaris. We have also developed a texture that looks like fur from a distance but is actually silk.

the Shikargah and the presence of communities like the Bishnois in Rajasthan presents a contradiction in our treatment of wildlife through the ages. Why do you think this was the case?

Humans are contradictory creatures. There are people who died saving animals, and there are also people who died killing animals. In this duality, you have to see which side you want to be on today, in 2021.

Sher Bagh weaves eleven animals into his narrative. Can you elucidate?

We have included the animals that the Sujan family is involved in conservation as well as some of the more popular at risk animals like elephants, rhinos, tigers and the endangered pangolin. Graphics also convey the message that there is a bagh when there is she, and vice versa, that is to say that they complement each other, nature and fauna, and that we cannot look at them in isolation.

sher bagh, raw mango, sanjay garg The Sher Bagh campaign.

Raw Mango’s connection with Rajasthan is now established, with Moomal and now Sher Bagh. What draws you to the state as a source of inspiration?

I am not from Rajasthan but I grew up there. I studied there when I was a kid. Certainly I don’t know if I can put it on a table and peel it, but I know that I have so much to tell about our country, and more precisely about Rajasthan because I lived there and observed it up close: whether it’s the folk music, culture, weddings, wildlife or even the food there that interests me so much. So there are a lot of things worth exploring.

Sher Bagh is rooted in a different concept and inspiration than what we’ve seen of Raw Mango in recent history. Do you see a different and redesigned future for the brand?

Still, and if you don’t feel it, I wouldn’t want to create that way. For my previous ‘Romantics’ collection, people said ‘oh, there’s a French influence’. But I always say that India is not one India. I come with different ideas from India and you cannot impose one idea on anyone. I think as a brand I don’t want to stick to any particular inspiration or just lehengas and saris.

Anjali Singh

How did your experience turn into a creative collaborator for one of Raw Mango’s first patrons?

It was a wonderful trip, I learned so much about the design process of Raw Mango’s work and all that goes into making a single garment. It was fascinating and informative and brought a lot of joy.

What was your vision of Sher Bagh?

The vision of this collection was to link design and conservation – two things that are close to my heart – together to form a message through fashion and textiles. Coming together with Sanjay to create a collection that celebrates the wilderness while exploring new shapes and images for the safari textiles and clothing that I believe this collection embodies.

Having lived through the most difficult months of the past decades, we firmly believed that this collection would symbolize and celebrate the resilience of life on planet Earth, and make a statement on the imperative and critical balance necessary for the survival of the Earth. humanity and our heritage of a fragile and natural world. Sher Bagh salutes the inherent and intrinsic connection of the human species with its natural environment and diverse habitats. It’s a connection that frayed at the edges but can be rekindled. We believe Sher Bagh will inspire fellow travelers to reconnect with their true heritage, with wilderness and wilderness, to redefine their priorities, their lives and their lifestyles.

Your family has a heritage of conservation in the Rajasthani wilderness. How have you observed it change over the years?

The pressure of the human population has had negative consequences on the natural resources of our planet all over the world and it is the same in India. However, with proper and timely intervention, the tiger population in India has increased especially in Ranthambhore, Rajasthan which is a good example of protection and its positive results. All protected wilderness is reborn quickly becoming a Garden of Eden for many unique species, flora and fauna.

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