‘NFTs are the future; a way to secure our legacy on blockchain’: Fashion designer Raghavendra Rathore

After leaving an indelible impression on the world of fashion, designer Raghavendra Rathore has now entered the realm of blockchain by becoming the “first designer to take his personal art and convert it into NFTs via exclusive block-chain technology”.

“Heritage and its celebration is the key differentiating factor that Raghavendra Rathore Crypto NFT’s stand for; it is a way to secure our legacy for blockchain eternity,” he told indianexpress.com.

Additionally, the designer has also launched limited edition art NFT inspired by his namesake brand that was launched on the WazirX NFT Marketplace. But this is not all, the NFTs have been created to raise awareness for the initiatives of Raghavendra Rathore Foundation (RRF), a registered NGO, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale will be used to empower the lives of communities through mentorship programs, cultural experiences and scholarship opportunities.

In an exclusive conversation, the designer — who is known for his bespoke creations, especially the bandhgala — spoke about his venture, the future of fashion, and how the pandemic has caused a shift in the way people engage with lifestyle products.

What inspired you to launch NFTs?

NFTs have been around for a few years but the notion of connecting them with our NGO to raise critical funds that go back into society was a unique attempt. I will also be working very closely with design schools to help youngsters learn the nuances of creating these valuable assets that can have a windfall impact in their early careers. Also my love for technology, gadgets and computers gives me an additional edge in trying to imbibe the block chain frontier with the growth of the company.

Can you tell us about the works that have been converted into non-fungible tokens?

We have launched two sets of NFTs; the first set is inspired by the heritage and brand language of the label and the second is most unique as we have managed to digitised my personal artworks into NFTs. All artworks are catering to our vast audience, the most expensive one sold out within five minutes of its launch. Happy to see the support the community is funneling to this initiative, now I’m inviting ideas for our NGO to engage with different strata’s of society that need the crucial backing.

Why did you decide to convert your personal art into NFTs? Also can you tell us about the art NFT inspired by Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur?

Heritage and its celebration is the key differentiating factor that Raghavendra Rathore Crypto NFT’s stand for, it is a way to secure our legacy on blockchain for eternity. Another differentiation would be that a portion of the proceeds from sale will be donated to the Raghavendra Rathore Foundation that is dedicated to empowering the lives of communities through mentorship programs, cultural experiences and scholarship opportunities.

Since you have been closely associated with the worlds of art and technology, what do you feel about this new format?

Art personally to me is very dear and I have, in my career, been lucky enough to create artworks to raise money for charities, in the early 90’s. The one that I most fondly remember was for AMFAR along with renowned names like Calvin Klein, Cristo and other eminent art and creative legends. After setting up the Gurukul School of Design, I have been very keen on encouraging young art lovers to adopt technology in their day to day experience. New tools and tech awareness is crucial in today’s learning. Blockchain technology, on which NFT is run, is here to stay and it will have a 360° impact in our lives as soon in the next few years.

The fashion world is an ever-evolving space, do you think NFTs are likely to bring the next big revolution to the world of glamour and design?

Technology is fuelling creativity and blockchain allows one to keep a tab on the provenance seamlessly. NFTs are the future. We have to move forward. Progress is important, we have to embrace the future. An abundant number of smart brands from the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Givenchy to name a few, have adopted the tokenization of physical assets by developing NFT (non-fungible tokens) apparel and accessories — ripe for purchase.

The industry was also hugely affected by the pandemic, with digital shows becoming the new normal. What is your take on the same?

The pandemic has caused a shift in the way people engage with lifestyle products. Everyone, from an individual person to the system as a whole, which is marked by declining sales, shifting customer behaviour and disrupted supply chains, has been affected. Whereas traditionally the concept of retail outlet or an online retail experience was okay, the exclusivity clause is a mandate. The key difference is to bring the products into the living room, In customers comfort zone versus expecting it online which can be accessed by all. Since the experience people are looking for has changed, luxury products need to be an accent to their personality and last for a lifetime. Being primarily bespoke in our offering, home-shopping and Zoom consultations have taken precedence as our goal remains to keep the customer’s comfort and safety at the centre of everything.

Sustainable fashion also became a buzzword in the last two years — what is your opinion of the same, vis-à-vis the Indian fashion industry?

With the rise of the ‘selfie’ generation, the appetite for purchasing products is plenty but a sense of consciousness is determining the success of the sales. It is still early for people to comply with 100 per cent sustainable culture but there must not be a doubt in our minds that we are going to be heading there, relatively soon, as a society. Fast fashion brands need to find new business models and those who have started looking inwardly to be more sustainable compliant are being rewarded by society.

Has the pandemic, in any way, affected the way you perceive fashion/your design philosophy?

There is no doubt that the pandemic has been critical in changing the course of society across the globe. New methods, new yardsticks different benchmarks are all part of the revolution that we are all in.

Many Bollywood celebrities are seen wearing your creations, but who do you think carries them off the best?

The pleasure of working with clients who understand the nuances of classic style and are always inspiring our bespoke design teams to create relic pieces from the past in a more contemporary sense, makes collaborations effortless and a perfect fit. Saif Ali Khan’s personal style has always been defined by a timeless elegance, matching the Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur’s design aesthetic of quiet luxury.

In the past, working on cinematic experiences like Tandav, Eklavya, Khoobsurat with the likes of Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Amitabh Bachchan has been fascinating. Working on styles that evokes a familiar nostalgia of our past but in a contemporary and comfortable way and that is what makes all of our celebrity and real-life clients who have varied professional lifestyles such as politics, business or any other significant position in society so unique, to work with.

One celebrity you wish to design for, and what creation do you have in mind?

The Italian actor Michele Morrone for his dapper looks and roguish charm.

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