Is minimalism just a trend? Designer Sanjay Garg says it is, and he’s more interested in frugality as an approach to design and living
The moment he is asked for his thoughts on minimalism, textile designer Sanjay Garg says, "I am not really interested in that. I am more interested in being frugal." It is a thought that fits quite pertinently into the spare, beautiful universe he has created with his work at Raw Mango and his own personal journey over the years.
While Indian textiles, design traditions and sartorial culture anchor Raw Mango, Garg’s sensibility reflects Gandhian minimalism with a thoughtful approach, classic designs and an emphasis on less-is-more. The colours are unabashedly Indian – for Bageecha, his Summer Festive 2019 collection, for instance, Garg has created garments and sarees in angoori, and chatak peela. Pieces from Raw Mango transcend seasonality, and are centred, instead, around a thought, a fabric, a craft. The brand’s stores are stripped of visual clutter, and the merchandise is displayed without much fuss – the colours and textures take focus.
We spoke with Sanjay Garg about why mindful consumption is key, and how the Gandhian philosophy is relevant at every point in time.
Raw Mango’s Lodhi Colony store houses five rooms with wide, long galleries joining them together. At the entrance is a wooden Naga Bed, above which hangs a 20-feet long ‘chhajja’.
A stone sculpture of a lion with a monkey face emerges amidst unpolished iron pillars, a brass countertop and glass cabinets at Raw Mango’s Mumbai store.
On why frugal living is the need of the hour
“The more I think about it, what interests me and what I am trying to cultivate in my own life is frugality. Minimalism has almost become a trend but I feel like what we see a lot of is visual - large rooms with bare empty walls, and lots of bleached wood. My first concern is sustainability - the wood creates a carbon footprint, which is not ideal. And secondly, if you still own many pairs of shoes and several clothes in your minimalist house, how is that living by the philosophy? So I think we all need to think about what we can live without and go from there.
Which is why what I am focused on is being frugal. And I am learning how to do this now. The question I want to answer for myself is - can I live with a lack of things, and use less resources?”
On living a philosophy, and not following a trend
“The most important lesson we can learn from Mahatma Gandhi's life is that he lived what he preached. His was a frugal life. He spun the khadi that he wore - that is something so incredible. Gandhiji wore khadi because it was a cloth that he could make himself and I think that practice was a form of yoga, which is really about living a philosophy and bringing it into every part of your life, not just the physical. Gandhiji wore white, which is so interesting to me because even using a dye is adding a resource into the process.
And a big reason why he asked people to also spin khadi to wear is that when you make your own fabric, it becomes so much more valuable to you. You are going to think about it more carefully. The truth is that whatever is brought into the world has an end to it, and we have to think about that as we consume. Right now, owning things is considered to be a sign of success, of wealth and so it’s even more important that we all become more mindful.”
Raw Mango’s Bangalore flagship. A former home, it houses several rooms with long, narrow corridors and galleries.
Garment Room at Raw Mango’s Angoori Badi Studio, New Delhi.
On frugality as mindful, sustainable consumption
“I have to confess that for 10 or 12 years, I was also taken in by visual minimalism, so I am just learning to change. One way is by upcycling my old clothes for myself or by giving them away to people that I know will use them. I am also considering giving my brother the pieces of furniture that I no longer use because he is setting up a home. And I use one and a half buckets of water when I bathe – no showers in my house.
When you start thinking about how your decisions will affect your life, the planet and everything else in 10 years or even 50 years, you begin to change the way you buy and use things. In India, if you think about, everything from traditional clothes, to the way homes were designed was suited to the climate and the needs of consumers. I am not suggesting that everyone goes back to wearing sarees and living in old-fashioned homes but before we reject those ideas for new ones, it’s important to understand what we are leaving behind and why. We must learn from traditional ideas of sustainability and consumption.”
On bringing these ideas to Raw Mango
“At Raw Mango, we do not follow trends and we don’t tempt our clients with visual merchandising. If you walk into our stores, there are no mannequins and nothing on the walls. I count the pieces of furniture on my fingers and each piece is functional.
And we have never followed trends. Whatever you buy from us is a classic piece that you can wear for the rest of your life. Our collections are based on a thought I had at that point in time but you can wear something from seven years ago, today. Honestly, I encourage everyone to buy what they will wear, not once but again.”
Raw Mango’s Mumbai store at Colaba.
Raw Mango’s Lodhi Colony store’s courtyard features a white wall whose curves seem to protect the monolithic table, which is 18-feet long and over 500kgs. It is built from a solid sheet of iron.
Raw Mango’s white sooti sari
In the last of our four-part series on everything you need to know about moving, columnist and serial home-changer Arun Janardhan says that in your home, create areas where you perform certain functions. And try not to eat in bed!
This October 2nd is Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday. As in many aspects, he had a strong impact on design in this country and understood its value as a form of communication and thoughtful living. British-Indian architect Laurie Baker was an ardent Gandhian who championed frugal architecture as a way to be sustainable and environment-friendly. Read about this icon and watch our exclusive tour of Pallikoodam, the school he designed for educationist Mary Roy, in Kerala
In the third of our four-part series on everything you need to know about moving, columnist and serial home-changer Arun Janardhan tells you when you move into a new place, invest time and effort in building a community, for support and entertainment
For the second in our four-part series on everything you need to know about moving, columnist and serial home-changer Arun Janardhan tells you what to take along or leave behind, and how objects help make your home look familiar yet new