Rahul Mishra tells t2 why style is bigger than fashion for him

Designer Rahul Mishra (picture below) will be in town with his latest couture collection for a promotion and a showing. A t2 chat...




We had last spoken right after you had won the Woolmark Prize. How has life changed in these one-and-a-half years?

I have been invited by the French fashion federation to do Paris Fashion Week and that’s what I have been doing. So now we have got a permanent slot in Paris Fashion Week. It’s surreal to show along with Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Dior. It is kind of pushing me to work and keep creating. You know, I’ve always dreamt of getting up in the morning and reading our fashion reviews by Suzy Menkes, now when I read her reviews of my shows… it’s phenomenal. So I’m very happy that coming from India we are being able to be that kind of edgy, modern, at the same time being very Indian. 


Is there anything they expect from your design because you are Indian?

Yes, there are cliched notions about India... of Bollywood fashion, that’s how fashion is projected out of India. But say Jamdani saris or Kerala saris are Indian heritage fabrics, when you show them that, they say oh is that Indian, but there’s no colour in this. They are limited to the idea of India as Bollywood, as Rajasthan.... So it’s truly great that I manage to break away. So they say it is truly global as I stayed away from the ethnic look of Indianness, but actually my collection is very ethnic, in terms of beauty of textiles, embroideries. 


You were a guy working with handlooms primarily… from that to suddenly this huge jump to the international league. How have you dealt with the increased production?

I’ll tell you what I’ve done. Two years back we sat with some embroiders working for big labels, living in the slums in Mumbai, we found that all of them came from one place in Bengal, in Hooghly district. I started working with them and what I have been able to create is reverse migration. We have created in their village a set-up which is all certified, no child labour, because when I send my clothes to New York I need those. So now they live with their family, they enjoy life and earn. Right now there are 150 karigars. My entire couture collection is based on their work. They are my inspiration. They are being able to create designs that amaze even Parisians now. Calcutta (means Bengal) is one of the pilot projects, but I do have handloom clusters all over the country. 


You’re doing more couture now, but you were always a pret guy…

Not really, even my Woolmark collection was all couture; it would qualify as couture anywhere in the world, but maybe not the Indian idea of couture. The Indian idea of couture is bridal, which is wrong. Sometimes my one garment has more details than lehngas have. And stores like Harvey Nichols (London) or Colette (Paris) are retailing these clothes at like 2,000 pounds, and internationally we are retailing at a price on a par with Balenciaga… we are not a high-street brand, we sell from designer stores in London, Paris, China, Australia, Japan…. 


What’s your couture like?

This collection has got a lot of separates, so I’m looking at functional couture here. We are trying to create separates. It’s so passe to dress head to toe in one designer. The designer is pushing his sense of style on one individual who might have a better sense of style. I as a designer put together a look with separates and put them on the runway, but it’s up to an individual how she wants to put it together. I’ve got a sweatshirt with a lehnga, but you can combine the lehnga with a tee and the sweatshirt with denims. Style is bigger than fashion. Sometimes people surprise me with their style. 


Tell us about this particular collection (the couture collection he is bringing to Calcutta). 

It’s got sheers, lots of peacocks and parrots, there’s Indian heritage in a very modern way, there’s sportswear elements… sportswear luxe you can call it. 




I’m looking at functional couture. It’s so passe to dress head to toe in one designer. The designer is pushing his sense of style on one individual who might have a better sense of style. I as a designer put together a look with separates and put them on the runway, but it’s up to an individual how she wants to put it together.



Sportswear elements in couture! 

(Laughs) Comfort… great deal of comfort. A designer always proposes… if I just have to follow trends, then why am I here? 


Who’s the Rahul Mishra woman?

A multi-tasking, very very confident woman who doesn’t want to be someone else because she’s in love with her own personality. And she creates her own wardrobe by picking and choosing pieces; who shops from big brands as well as flea markets. 


When we ask any senior Indian designer about the future names to watch out for in Indian fashion, everybody names Rahul Mishra. How’s the pressure?

I am very happy... rather than focusing on what you create, why you create is more important. Clothes go through evolution… so I’ll get better, but as long as the why remains constant you’re sorted. When I go to a weaver’s house today and see LED TV in his house, that’s much more satisfying than having five LED TVs in all my bedrooms. So this is the why that is driving me, inspiring me. 


Rahul Mishra has a promotion in Bombaim, 218 AJC Bose Road, on November 5 & 6 (10am-8pm on Thursday & 11am-3pm on Friday). 

He will show as part of the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour at ITC Sonar on November 6, 7.30pm.



Smita Roy Chowdhury
Pictures: Sandip Das




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