Raghavendra Rathore is on a high. The Jodhpur-based designer, who studied at Parsons School of Design, New York, and worked at Oscar de la Renta and Donna Karan before launching his eponymous label in 1994, is known for his crisp bandhgalas and bespoke menswear. Now his label is in the spotlight as the recipient of a joint investment by Italian menswear label Ermenegildo Zegna and Reliance Brands Ltd (RBL).
Three’s Company: Rathore, Zegna and Reliance strike a partnership
This is the first-of-its-kind venture for a luxury label in the country, promising new avenues for Rathore. “With this new opportunity, we are recalibrating and optimizing the business plan,” the designer says over email. “The unique access to a vertical like Zegna and infrastructure support from RBL can bring many opportunities that never existed.”
Darshan Mehta, president and CEO, RBL, says such a partnership has been a long time in the making. “Given the right ecosystem of investment, there’s a lot of value to be created in nurturing to scale Indian design talent,” Mehta says over the phone. “We have been on the lookout for designers who combine a unique design lens with clever packaging. When a friend suggested Rathore’s name, I said I’d love to meet him.” The meeting took Mehta to Rathore’s home in Jodhpur in late 2017, and the two got along well.
It was also Mehta who brought Rathore and Zegna together. The Italian brand has a long history of investing in Asia. Zegna was one of the first luxury brands to enter China in 1991 and has been in India for over a decade. When Mehta mentioned the negotiations with Rathore during a meeting, Gildo Zegna, CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna, offered to come on board and the three met again, along with team members and families. “Meeting Raghavendra and his wife, I saw that we shared many characteristics, including the same vision, creativity, integrity and authenticity,” Zegna says on email. “We also share a penchant for excellence, value hard work and approach life and business with a positive energy.”
Zegna and RBL’s role in the partnership is strategic, with Rathore and his team primarily in charge. “I can envision us helping deliberate strategic issues such as scale, timing and investments. Should Rathore seek inputs in other areas of the business, our support would be immediately forthcoming.” However, Zegna emphasizes that all operational and management decisions will be undertaken by Rathore himself.
Rathore is both careful and optimistic with his success. “A balanced approach, minor tinkering to the vision and most importantly, a superb customer experience, both nationally and internationally, will be my aim.”