Sanjay Garg's fashion label Raw Mango unveiled their spring/summer 2021 collection titled 'The Other,' and it astounded all of us.
Our first reaction: this is incredible. If one were to shop these clothes on Raw Mango's official website, one would be able to (thankfully) make practical sense of the clothes, see oneself wearing them, and purchase accordingly; as with all previous Raw Mango collections.
And while all collections til date have had uniquely captivating aesthetics, one could certainly note a difference in the unveiling, and the presentation of the latest collection.
It was not not just the arid land with acidic colors, or the colors, fabrics or designs themselves. The difference was in the vibe: models with stained, colored skin (deep reds and greens), the sound of alarms, the clear evocation of the supernatural; it was the entire package that made Raw Mango's latest collection make people sit up and notice.
It didn't quite matter if someone liked it or disliked it; everyone noticed. Everyone felt the vibe.
We would give points to the team at Raw Mango for being so creative. For weaving a visual story that evoked a range of feelings; this was certainly an eye-catching, memorable presentation that will stay with many of us for a long time.
What intrigued us were the interesting allusions inherent in Sanjay Garg's latest collection: the stained bodies which could have easily been the bodies of women who had just finished celebrating South Asia's biggest spring festival, Holi, (or, indeed, the bodies of Hindu gods themselves); the sound of faint alarms that could have been the sound emanating from countless Hindu temples; the big, bold ceramic eyes placed on the faces of the models which are the exact replica of eyes that Hindus often put on their idols.
And then we thought, was Sanjay Garg on to something?
Spring is a celebratory season around the world, filled with hope and renewal, and here we had a collection presented on arid land with beleaguered, haunted models, half-ghosts, and half-spirits. A celebration of death, lifelessness, tragedy, and horror.
There is a reason why cultures around the world say "Rest in Peace." If a spirit comes back, it must be because of an unhappy, tortured, or unfinished life. An ominous sign. And judging by the mood prevailing during the unveiling of the collection, 'The Other' was a visual ode to the moods of bitterness, unhappiness, and resentment; redolent of unfinished stories; difficult pasts; the unseen; the unsaid. Unforgiving memories. Lingering retaliation. Despair.
It is, of course, fully within the right of artists to introduce and play with contradictions; to present the unexpected as a study of contrasts. It was also great that Sanjay Garg, in continuing with his well-known and well-appreciated style, made use of motifs clearly drawn from India: from the female ghosts akin to those in classic, Aahat-like TV series to the sounds, idols and festivals of Hindus, topped with the hashtag of "#divine" at the end of each Instagram post.
But, then, why call it "The Other?" And why call it "aposematism," which, according to Oxford dictionary, denotes the advertising by *animals* that it is not worth attacking or eating due to its "toxicity, venom, foul taste or smell, sharp spines, or aggressive nature?"
As an artist, Sanjay Garg has consistently outdone himself with his clothes and his ability to craft new, visual stories, and his latest collection clearly set a new record in these two important areas. (No small feat, in itself.) But in terms of his subtle and rather sophisticated messaging that Hindus, and their gods, are venomous, haunted and "The Other," Raw Mango crossed the line- and not in a good way for any artist or label that aspires to cater to a diverse, and liberal global clientele.
Is art by great artists entitled to target and mock communities based on their race, color, gender or religion- just because the couture is exquisite, the lighting unique and the photography excellent? We think not.
No religion in the world deserves to see such a message played out about it; using the aesthetics of their respective, upcoming religious festivals, and their gods, and embedding it within indigenous, tell-tale horror stories; no matter how artistic, skillful or incredible the components of such a message are.
This was the real, unspoken tragedy of The Other: it was great art that made use of excellent techniques with a stellar team, but it was all with a subtle intention to denigrate a religion, and that alone reduced it to distasteful art.
For people who deeply love and appreciate the talent and creativity of the team at Raw Mango, no realization could have been more tragic and painful than this.