Beautiful, Yet Easy to Live With: The Legacy of Raro
By Elizabeth Greatrex
Although Raro was founded over twenty years ago, 2020 holds promise of being the most exciting year yet for the Delhi born, internationally renowned interior design atelier and its founders, creators and designers, Rajeeta and Rolly Gupta.
Raro stands for ‘rare’ in Italian, a name that not only reflects their quest for excellence, rarity of materials used such as Afghanistan Jade and Farmed Python Leather, and uniqueness of product and design; but also, an abbreviation for the first two letters of the sister’s names. A nod to the strong business partnership that has been largely responsible for the brand growing into the success that it is today.
Although Raro has only been in London a few years, Rajeeta and Rolly’s fondness and familiarity for the city and the incomparable knowledge that they have of the place that high end interior design has within it, has me convinced that they could have grown up as Londoners themselves. That being said, there is definitely no mistaking the fire in their bellies, the hunger they have for perfection or the raw exoticism and unsurpassed quality of their designs. Assets, that they have crafted while growing up in New Delhi, and which I believe, have given them a significant edge in developing something fresh and exciting to bring the table of high-end, contemporary furniture design.
I met the sisters at Raro’s elegant showroom in St James’s, a location that is synonymous with the heart and soul of the brand, and that beautifully displays their main pieces.
Raro London Showroom, St James's.
Elizabeth Greatrex: Tell me about the beginning of your journey as designers?
Rajeeta Gupta: We both studied interior design and so my father saw the opportunity to ask for our help in building and designing the family house. It was a little bit of an informal way that we slipped into a very practical project. I think we discovered that the level of fine furniture wasn’t present in India at the time, as we ordered some pieces where the proportions were wrong and the quality questionable. That’s when we decided that there was an opportunity in the market to start making fine furniture. Our journey started with learning how to make fine furniture and understanding what it took to make the right chair, sofa or table, that was functional, comfortable and ergonomically correct.
Coyote Sideboard in Japanese Nacre with Handles and Base Electroplated in 24ct Gold. Top in Piano Black Finish. Insides
cased in Italian Leather.
“Our Journey started with learning how to make fine furniture and understanding what it took to make the right chair, sofa or table, that was functional, comfortable and ergonomically correct.”
EG: Why did you bring Raro to London?
Rolly Gupta: We’ve had a great time in India, but it was a few years back that we realised that we had pretty much exploited every opportunity that there was, and we were hungry for international exposure. London made the perfect sense to us, it’s really the gateway between the east and the west. It’s so strategically located, and it caters to a very international audience that is so global, so connected.
EG: Do you think that you had strong desire to put something out there in the market of design that was not already present?
Rolly Gupta: We saw a gap between high-end contemporary furniture and art furniture where we felt that the art furniture, although interesting to look at and a great expression of one’s creativity, was not comfortable, practical or easy to live with. Although they make a great visual impact, would I want to sit on that chair or work on that table? They seemed not so conducive to day-to-day living. That was where we carved out our niche. To create art furniture that was beautiful, yet easy to live with. We knew that within this very evolved market, it was important to offer something that was unique, but also with a high-level of craftsmanship.
Coyote Sideboard in Japanese Nacre with Handles and Base Electroplated in 24ct Gold Top in Piano Black Finish. Insides cased
in Italian Leather.
“That was where we carved our niche. To create art furniture that was beautiful, yet easy to live with.”
EG: Do you believe that the relationship between you both is key to the success of the company?
Rajeeta Gupta: Absolutely. We are just a year apart, we are a very good team, we do the perfect dance together when it comes to our business. That’s very important because even as children, we were never the quarrelling siblings that were insecure and jealous of each other. We always brought out the best in each other. We also come from generations of family businesses, so we saw how business was done within a family. There are do’s and don’ts. You respect each other. You give in, every now and then. I think that’s what helps a relationship grow.
EG: Tell me about the level of importance that the Raro artisans and their craftsmanship have to the brand.
Rajeeta Gupta: Their work is everything. This is a level of craftsmanship that we have honed for decades. These artisans have been trained and looked after, to remain with us, and to contribute. We are here because of them. Yes, we design, and we guide them, but it is their native instinct towards the natural things that are in their hands that help them create these masterpieces.
EG: Talk to me about the process of design and creation?
Rolly Gupta: The common thread in most of our designs is a strong vintage, twenties art deco influence. We never wanted to produce large quantities of product, we wanted to do few things, but do them well. We do the initial sketches, dictate the design and the materials, but translating that rough sketch into a factory drawing is done by people that work for us. But the conception of a design and the prototyping is where we are very closely involved because we are not a brand that is very big or known for coming out with a new collection every year. It’s a slow and careful process because it takes time to master a technique or a certain finish. We don’t work in a hurry. You definitely cannot rush art, but that’s the whole idea and it’s what we enjoy.
Jacob Chairs, made from Exposed Burma Teakwood with Macassar Ebony finish, upholstered in Panthère Terracotta
“We don’t work in a hurry. You definitely cannot rush art, but that’s the whole idea and it’s what we enjoy.”
EG: What do your clientele expect from you?
Rajeeta Gupta: They are used to the best of the best. They have a very keen eye for quality, design and detailing. If they like what you do, it is a huge compliment. For them, they view the piece they want to purchase as a collectable. Money isn’t really a question but more about an investment into something that they see value in.
EG: What designers inspire you the most?
Rajeeta Gupta: All of the big guys of the 1920’s, such as Jean Michelle Frank. In terms of the modern world, we love the flow and the natural movement of Zaha Hadid’s architecture. She went too early; she should have stayed with us longer. We love architectural furniture.
EG: What does luxury mean to you?
Rajeeta Gupta: I think luxury is something that truly feels great. It is an experience that you don’t forget. It’s of a completely different level, where you relax, your senses are invigorated, and you say, you know what? I just love it. It takes years for one to understand luxury, you have to live in a certain way to experience luxury in day-to-day life. It’s not just walking to Louis Vuitton and buying a bag.
Jacob Chairs, made from Exposed Burma Teakwood with Macassar Ebony finish, upholstered in Panthère
Terracotta Storyboard Fabric.
“Luxury is something that truly feels great. It is an experience you don’t forget. It’s completely on a different level, where you relax, your senses are invigorated.”
It seems that Rajeeta and Rolly Gupta were born with a natural sense of entrepreneurship that others would envy. They are completely devoted to their craft, their pursuit of excellence, and they have huge respect for one another not only as design partners but as family too. It also didn’t take me long to realise that the sisters have truly raised the bar in their industry. At face value, yes, the Raro pieces are visually stunning, unique creations. Yet, it is the rarity of the materials, the intricate process behind marrying them together and the incredible skill of the talented artisans who have dedicated their lives to this line of work, that makes the brand so special.
The Gupta sisters have spent twenty-three years dedicating themselves to understanding the true meaning of luxury, and it shows. In every Raro creation, one can see their clear appreciation for styles of the past, their understanding of the practical needs of modern living and also, their excitement for the future. In short, Raro is timeless, and thoroughly look forward to seeing it all around the world as the brand continues to grow and shine.
Nawab Chest cased in Black Python Leather. Jewelled Falcon Handle in 18ct Gold with uncut Diamonds.
Base in African Ebony Wood with Veneered Shelf. Inside Cased in Red Nubuck.