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Avani Rai Reacts to Raw Mango’s Controversial Kashmir Campaign

Sanjay Garg’s collection, Zooni, was criticized as being insensitive to the people of Kashmir

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Designer Sanjay Garg, the name behind Raw Mango, has received a backlash from social media for his latest collection Zooni, that was released on Instagram. The campaign featured clothes invoking Kashmiri silhouettes and cuts, shot in the valley by photographer Avani Rai. It was released on 2 October.

The collection was criticized as being insensitive to the people of Kashmir, given the current political situation in the state. It was also described as “cultural appropriation” and “disrespectful”. Following the criticism, this campaign was taken down from Instagram.

Here’s a quick look at some of the photos from the campaign and its criticism:

Sanjay Garg’s collection, Zooni, was criticized as being insensitive to the people of Kashmir
Sanjay Garg’s collection, Zooni, was criticized as being insensitive to the people of Kashmir
Sanjay Garg’s collection, Zooni, was criticized as being insensitive to the people of Kashmir

Responding to the controversy photographer Avani Rai told The Quint, "I shot this in June. My contract got over at the end of June. I wish the final call of the release of the campaign was the photographer's.”

“My work on Kashmir is way more important than this campaign. I would like no distraction from my work which focuses on more important things over 5 years in the valley.”
Avani Rai, Photographer

The Quint has also accessed an email between Raghu Rai and Avani, which was written to Sanjay Garg on 24 September, in which they state that since the situation in Kashmir is “tense and sensitive”, it would not be wise to have any activity “which is influenced by glamour or commercial event”. They also request the designer to not use their names in the media or other publicity events if he decided to go ahead with the launch of the campaign.

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Garg told The Indian Express that he was shocked by the reaction on social media. “I had been working on this campaign for more than two years. I visited the Valley quite a few times and also interacted with the people there. Our intention was not to hurt anyone. This anger and backlash is uncalled for. Had a Kashmiri designer done this, would this campaign be different? Or if I had released this collection later, wouldn’t I be branded an opportunist then too?,” Garg asked.

The designer also said that initially they had planned to release the campaign in August, but pushed it back keeping in mind the situation there. “I wanted people to understand the essence of a Kashmiri nikaah (wedding). People are questioning why I have used and appropriated the pheran, but I used it in my 2015 collection as well,” Sanjay Garg told The Indian Express.

Raw Mango took to Instagram to speak about the campaign and explain why it was postponed.

View this post on Instagram

Updated press note as of Oct 4th: At Raw Mango our process of design requires a two year lead time, from research to stores. In November 2017, our design team began research and textile development for ‘Zooni’, a collection drawing from Kashmir. Each textile and silhouette is created through an exploration of this country - though traditions, rituals and craftsmanship across different regions. For instance our 2018 collection ‘Heer’, alluded to the culture of pre-partition Punjab. In May 2019, we began to explore campaign directions for Zooni, and a recce was done on May 2019 in Srinagar. The shoot was executed over 5 days from June 27 - July 2, 2019. A release was planned for August 8th, 2019 and given the political and social climate surrounding the region, the launch was postponed. The decision to withhold the images has since been under considerable discussion and concern. The decision to release the images shot by Avani Rai was the decision of the brand. It was not a decision of Avani’s, who requested to delay the release further. The campaign imagery for Zooni was released on the evening of Oct 2, 2019 on Instagram, and recalled that evening based on requesting the public sentiment on timing, as well as a request from Avani Rai.

A post shared by RAW MANGO | SANJAY GARG (@raw_mango) on

(Inputs: The Indian Express and medium.com)

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