When designer Rahul Mishra was invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the prestigious governing body of the French fashion industry that decides the line-up at the prestigious Paris Haute Couture Week, in January, it was a proud moment for India.
Mishra showed at one of the top three fashion shows in the world alongside global biggies Valentino, Iris van Herpen, Zuhair Murad, Balmain, Chanel, Dior, Maison Margiela and Schiaparelli, scripting a new chapter for Indian couture with his minimalist, fabulously structured collection ‘Home’, which is a welcome departure from the usual bridalwear-like couture made in India.
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‘Home’, a line centred on jungle and nature, was inspired by the movie Madagascar (2005), Henri Rousseau’s painting The Dream and Mishra’s recent travel to the luxury resort Soneva Fushi | Maldives Luxury Beach Resort. “When I come back from a journey, the memories from that place stick with me for a while. The creative process that follows is then fuelled with those visuals. It’s just like trying to relive that experience by creating clothes and trying to weave the same story through them,” says Mishra via an e-mail interview.
“When I come back from a journey, the memories from that place stick with me for a while. The creative process that follows is then fuelled with those visuals.”
For the National Institute of Design graduate, travelling has become a need and it has become imperative to create all the natural stories from this planet through his clothes. He has been travelling since his student days for class projects, first in Ahmedabad, at the National Institute of Design, and later in Milan, while studying at Istituto Marangoni. For him, fashion has always been hugely impacted by travel. “From various themes relating to distinct cultures and numerous styles that are inspired from regional patterns of dressing, fashion often finds its way of fusion in order to globalise,” says Mishra. “The new kind of exposure that I would receive when surrounded by a new culture is what kept me travelling and it has almost become a need now. As a creative person, it is succulent for my personal growth.”
The blues of the Maldives
The departure point for the creation of ‘Home’ was when he saw his four-year-old daughter Aarna longing for a blue sky during the worst pollution days in New Delhi, a city he calls home. “We humans are confronted by the very outcomes of our own actions. There is no beauty in what is transpiring around us today, but the vivid imagery of the planet, virginal and untamed, serves a keen sense of optimism and paints a neat portrait of every ounce of life we are losing with each passing second,” says Mishra, also explaining his fondness for the animated movie Madagascar, which he must have watched several times with his daughter. “She is amazed by the plants and the animals that formulate the ecosystem of a massive jungle and so am I.”
So, when they travelled to the foothills of the Himalayas, Mishra was awed by the pristine nature of the wilderness. He experienced the same while in the Maldives. These distinct experiences shaped Mishra’s approach to clothes and were later translated into his Paris’s haute couture collection.
“At Soneva Fushi, as I submerged myself, quite literally, into an unfamiliar world, a series of stark realisations dawned upon me. I was mesmerised by a million shades of blue, the ever-changing abstract shapes made up of a diaspora of fishes, the alienesque under-water foliage and the striking corals. It was a mammoth task to register the beauty unfolding before me — an experience that was equal parts surreal and humbling.” Mishra describes that ecosystem as being crafted out of delicate hand-embroidered flora and fauna, which inspired him to discover new frontiers in his exploration of three-dimensional embroidery that lends a distinct shape-shifting essence to the silhouette.
The colour scheme, he believes, is the life of a collection. And for ‘Home’, Mishra explored a variety of hues directly picked from nature. The overall colour story had the dominant green of the jungle, aqua of the water and shades of blue from the day and night sky. “The spectrum of colours would be much vast when one looks at the details,” says Mishra.
“At Soneva Fushi, as I submerged myself, quite literally, into an unfamiliar world, a series of stark realisations dawned upon me. I was mesmerised by a million shades of blue…”
Discussing the essence of ‘Home’, Mishra says that he and his team had taken bigger risks by trying to reinvent art through embroidery. And what about the silhouettes? Most of the garments were articulated on silk organza. “It is the only fabric that allows us the kind of freedom that we need with the embroidery while also retaining the transparency and lightness of air,” says Mishra. To complement the same, Mishra used fine fabrics such a tulle, silk taffeta and duchess satin that add a hint of drama and volume to the drapes.
The romance of Monaco
Before ‘Home’, Mishra, the winner of the International Woolmark Prize, 2014, had designed another collection inspired from his 2019 trip to Monaco. Malhausi Monaco, the former being his birthplace in Uttar Pradesh, was a captivating, floral-heavy collection of delicately embroidered pieces.
The ensemble takes inspirations from his observations in the romantic city of Monaco and the vivid memory of his childhood home in his sleepy village. “I feel that there is a strong emotional connect with happiness that commonly runs across the world, through the beauty of nature, which is pardoned from the geographical location of a place,” says Mishra. “This collection, still in stores, is a representation of the same connection between a home where one is born and a home that one finds during self-granting escapades of travel; articulated with a juxtapose of natural elements from both the places and painterly expression of the feeling associated with it.”
For someone who is so inspired by nature, it’s obvious that Mishra’s definition of luxury articulates the importance of sustainability. “In the last century, most of the manufacturing industries, including the luxury segment, have predominantly exploited resources, be it human or natural. Today is the time for sustainable luxury and when we talk about sustainable luxury, we’re talking about mindful luxury; manufacturing processes that take care of the environment while creating a luxury product.
The brand philosophy on which our ideology is based on isn’t just about creating a piece of clothing or a piece of luxury just for consumption, instead, we should look at how a piece of clothing can benefit a larger section of the society.”
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