Indian Designers

A Post Graduate from the National Institute of Design [NID], Rahul Mishra won Best Student Designer of the Year in 2005 and a scholarship to the Istituto Marangoni, Milan. Having observed his collections for seasons and an animated chat with him earlier this evening, it seems Rahul Mishra is building the foundation of his fashion empire on the belief that there should be no barriers between the worlds of high culture and low, no dividing line between the aesthetics of refinement and ostentation. What influence the designer are not the institutions he has studied at as much as centuries-old traditional fabrics. Yet his Bachelors Degree in Physics came in handy during his debut at the Lakme Fashion Week 2006 when he created reversible ensembles with cotton handloom from Kerala—the garments had different borders and styles on both sides! Following the success of his collection, Mishra used chikankari to design seamless dresses that fit the body like a second skin.

The young genius draws from varied universes and pledges each collection would be different. Well, spring summer 2011 was no less brilliant. "I wanted to work with chanderi and stay true to its identity. The idea was to keep it simple with no excess embellishment. National Geographic taped the making of my collection [telecast: November 26]. The artisans weaved chanderi and we all observed the motifs emerging. It is a beautiful process," he explained, adding he had received an amazing response at fashion week. "Right after the show, a lady came up to me and said she did not who I was but she was well versed in chanderi and this was the first time she had ever seen chanderi look so young, rich and contemporary! I really cherish those memories. I also got a 5,000-m order that has 70 weavers working on the project. Globally too our textile revival is appreciated because we are not ripping their themes to create a catwalk collection here; we are working with traditional fabrics unique to India keeping the global silhouettes in mind… and this works!"

As a result, Mishra has hastened the makeover of fashion from a rarefied interest of the elite into a object of mass-cultural fascination. His label triumphed in part because the designer has maintained a firm sense of what he is selling: "My aim is not to grow rich and famous but to make the people around me prosperous. The elder generation of weavers are rigid in their thought but the younger generation is willing to learn and grow", he mused. "I explained it would be beneficial for them to become Internet-savvy so I could interact with them on the design and one day, a youngster came up to me with tearful eyes and informed me he had bought a laptop with the advance I had given him! It was such a heartwarming feeling." The artisans got added impetus when Aamir Khan visited Chanderi district and met and interacted with several craftsmen who weave Chanderi's traditional saris and swore to save the craft of Chanderi weaving from dying out.

So what can we expect from next season, I ask him? "I aspire towards newness in every season. Design is about possibilities. I always allow new artwork to grow on me… newer flow, newer silhouettes… and then create something. I have been toying with a theme since the past four months and need to shed all thoughts of this past collection to concentrate on my new baby," he grinned.

— Jasmeen Dugal
Photographs — Rahul Mishra