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:
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.
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.
(Inputs: The Indian Express and medium.com)