The Voyager's next port of call is the dazzling 'Blue City' of Jodhpur, India.
In the fourth episode of The HISTORY Channel's Around The World With Voyager, I meet renowned fashion designer Raghavendra Rathore and explore with him this majestic city on the edge of the Thar desert.
Born in Rajasthan, India’s “State of Kings”, Raghavendra is a proud bearer of his heritage as one of the descendants of Jodhpur’s royal clan, the Rathores (he is the great-grandson of Sardar Singh, 34th Maharaja of Jodhpur). Raghavendra shares stories of a childhood spent in Rajasthan before leaving India as a young man for further studies in the United States.
Fearing that academia might stifle his pursuit of creativity, Raghavendra studied Human Anthropology and Robotics at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, then Arts and Philosophy at Marlboro College in Vermont, before enrolling at New York's acclaimed Parsons School of Design.
When acclaimed fashion designer Donna Karan visited Parsons, she handpicked Raghavendra to work for her as an assistant designer at DKNY's sportwear division. Raghavendra went on to work with other famous
Manhattan labels Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass before returning to Jodhpur and launching his eponymous fashion label, “Rathore Jodhpur”.
Inspired by his hometown of Jodhpur, Raghavendra's personal designs integrate the heritage and charm of classic Rajasthani fashion with modern styling and aesthetics. He is best known for reviving the traditional Jodhpurs and Bandhgalas, making them internationally fashionable, while also preserving and promoting Rajashtan culture.
In 2011, Raghavendra was honoured by Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister of Rajasthan, for promoting the heritage and culture of Rajasthan through his fashion designs and for making his designs synonymous with Indian heritage.
I first meet Raghavendra at the regal sandstone Ajit Bhawan palace, his distinguished home filled with family photographs and other heirlooms. It is here that I learn about his family -- and, in particular, his father, who had a significant influence in shaping Raghavendra's life -- and I make a portrait of him in his drawing room.
We take time to admire his family's remarkable vintage automobile collection, but it is one car in particular -- a beautiful 1947 MG TC -- that Raghavendra lovingly
and personally restored that catches my eye for our photo shoot.
Next, Raghavendra takes me to the historic and imposing Mehrangarh Fort. Towering on a hill more than 400 feet above Jodhpur, this is one of the largest forts in all of India. Celebrated for its elaborate carvings and expansive courtyards, it is here that Raghavendra's cousin, His Highness The Maharaja Gaj Singh II, invited Raghavendra to host his first fashion show, changing the trajectory of Raghavendra's life. Together we create a fashion-inspired portrait in one of the citadel's stunning courtyards.
When Raghavendra was a boy, his father would take him to the countryside, exposing him to village life and allowing him to experience indigenous Rajasthani customs and tradition. Pukraj is a village weaver that Raghavendra and his father met many decades ago, and together we visit him at his humble home. Although Raghavendra's designs are contemporary, here with Pukraj I witness firsthand how he continues to draw inspiration from his cultural roots. In an enjoyable twist, I photograph both Pukraj and Raghavendra together.
Our final location is a couple of hours' drive outside Jodhpur in the vast Thar desert. With some help from some local young men, we drag a giant seven-foot mirror up a
massive sand dune to create a more conceptual portrait of our subject. Just as the sun sets over the Rajasthan desert, I capture Raghavendra in reflection, both literally and figuratively.
Raghavendra is an incredibly interesting person to meet and a fantastic subject to photograph. I admire how his contemporary design principles have been strongly influenced by his cultural heritage, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about his family history and his creative and life philosophies.
To experience Raghavendra's journey through my lens, catch the fourth episode of Around The World With Voyager,which premieres on Monday 11 February at 11pm on HISTORY and HISTORY HD.
Watch the promotional trailers for the first, second and third episodes where I met and photographed chef Sean Anson Xu (徐安昇) in Taipei, action star and movie director/producer Stephen Fung Tak-Lun (馮德倫) in Hong Kong and film director Brillante Mendoza in Manila.