The Textile Engineer

Designer Rajesh Pratap Singh — India's first wool ambassador — talks about his ongoing journey to redefine the fabric for summer

With the heat picking up pace in most parts of India, it seems like an unlikely time to talk about wool, but that's exactly what India's noted designer is looking to change. We meet Rajesh Pratap Singh in what is arguably India's woollen capital, Ludhiana, on a fiery May afternoon. The designer, who is also the country's first Woolmark ambassador (Singh took on the role earlier this year), has embarked upon a journey to explore the fibre and its potential. It started with his Autumn–Winter 2013 collection, which was showcased at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in March this year. The collection proved Singh's expertise in textile engineering, as he explored various techniques of wool such as felting, knitting, patchwork appliques and subtle embroidery. "Though it's not the first time I have worked with wool, its versatility always surprises me. In my new role, I am getting to learn a lot more about the wool fibre and its characteristics," said the designer.

His association with Woolmark has got him in touch with the Ludhiana-based Shingora Textiles. A key player in the shawl industry, Shingora — led by its CEO Amit Jain — retails not only in India but also in Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Japan. The company is also a premium producer for luxury brands and private labels such as Armani, Polo Ralph Lauren and Paul Smith. Pratap and Shingora have now joined hands to roll out a luxury line of wool and its blends with natural fibres.

The premium collection will be launched in August with an eye on the international market. "We have been experimenting with wool, blending it with other natural materials. It requires a lot of technical know-how to get it right," said Singh, who is looking to break away from wool's conventional usage. "For one, it's no longer just a cold weather material. Its natural breathability and temperature regulation, combined with new manufacturing methods, makes it ideal for warmer seasons and environments," said Singh.

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