An Italian luxury label is taking India’s designer menswear to the next level

Big fashion.
Big fashion.
Image: Reuters/Tony Gentile
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Indian designer fashion brands may finally be getting the global limelight.

After years of mostly serving India’s domestic traditional-wear market, they have begun to receive substantial investments from global fashion houses and private equity funds alike.

On June 26, Ermenegildo Zegna of Italy and the retail arm of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries announced that the two had picked up a minority stake in designer brand Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur for an undisclosed amount.

“In some sense, it heralds the coming of age and maturing of India’s luxury fashion business,” Gildo Zegna, CEO of the Milan-based men’s luxury fashion label, told The Times of India in an interview.

“The scope of the investment includes the sharing of strategic strengths aimed at helping Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur accelerate its growth and brand potential,” the two companies said in a statement announcing the deal.

The investment marks an inflexion point for homegrown luxury labels, following investments made by private equity funds and other institutional investors in brands such as Genesis Luxury and in designer Anita Dongre’s label over the last few years.

“Indian designers…have finally found a critical mass of younger, aspirational consumers who are now willing to spend, which wasn’t the case, say, a decade ago. This makes them attractive for investors,” said Devangshu Dutta, CEO of Third Eyesight consulting.

The Zegna deal is likely to help bolster Rathore’s presence in the Indian designer wear market and also explore foreign pastures. “While some Indian designers such as Sabyasachi have found obvious success in what they do, smaller, more niche labels such as Rathore could use the expertise of a foreign label to expand their reach,” Dutta added.

Zegna has had a presence in India for over a decade through its joint venture with Reliance Brands. Globally, the Italian luxury label has 513 outlets in over 100 countries.

Rathore in India

Raghavendra Rathore belongs to the royal family of Jodhpur from India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan.

His label has contemporarised the traditional bandhgala, a formal men’s suit made fashionable primarily by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The label also makes made-to-measure and bespoke suits, Nehru waistcoats, kurtas, and achkans.

“The bandhgala is an epitome of Indo-Western tailored suits (for men),” Rathore told Hindustan Times in an interview earlier this year. The label offers outfits for women as well.

graduate of the Parsons School of Design, New York, Rathore has worked in some of the biggest global fashion houses, including Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta.

Back in India, he launched his label in 1994 in Jodhpur, following that up with a small store in Delhi. Soon his designs were a rage among Indian celebrities.

At the time that he launched his label, India’s fashion market was still nascent with a handful of upcoming designers mostly selling wedding attire to affluent clients. Over the years, however, these have benefited from the growing number of aspirational, younger shoppers. Today, India’s celebrities to top cricketers sport Rathore’s designs.

Currently, Rathore runs seven stores in India. Last year, in a bid to promote modern design education, he announced the launch of his Gurukul School of Design in Jaipur.