Back when I was studying Fashion Imaging and Styling, I had the fortune of briefly meeting Rahul Mishra before he went up on the stage to deliver a lecture on sustainability in fashion, a subject that hits home with the designer and a fact you know is true, especially after finding material evidence of it in almost every collection of his. Which is why it took me little to no time to recognize that the man dressed in a Canadian tuxedo and a pair of sneakers, albeit rad, in his flagship store in Mumbai was indeed Rahul Mishra himself.
His chutzpah is admirable. The fact that he is one of the very few Indian designers to showcase his collection internationally, namely in Paris, and to have formerly won the prestigious Woolmark Prize for his contribution to Indian handloom, all this, merely 10 years since starting his namesake label would make you think he'd be dressing in anything that's a tad bit more glamorous than denim-on-denim. Particularly on a day when he's exhibiting his outfits from the India Couture Week 2019 to men and women who have flocked to the store to make them their own.
One look at the clothes from his collection which is fondly christened Malhausi Monaco, and you know why its an instant hit. There are wedding-worthy lehengas in hues that are far from ceremonial vermilion, and yet are every bit bridal. There are sarees with cape blouses and angrakhas in confectionary hues with French knot embroidery featuring flower pots with marigold blossoms in some places and a lake with swans made of Swarovski crystals at others.
Trench coats and full-length dresses made of diaphanous organza and inundated with intricate floral embroidery make occasional appearances, too. There are gender-blurring kalidar kurtas for both men and women which stick a subtle tongue out to the stereotypical biases of having different silhouettes for both the genders.
As he gears up for a special preview of his couture collection at Aza's store on Altamount Road, Mumbai, we ask Rahul Mishra about everything that Malhausi Monaco is about, from his perspective.
Aza: Your last couture collection singlehandedly brought chikankari to the fore, what's the highlight of this season's collection?
Rahul Mishra: Our Couture 2019 collection, Malhausi Monaco explored craftsmanship and creativity in various directions. With this collection, we explored our signature 3D embroidery further by creating garments that have their silhouettes primarily defined by the embroidery itself, giving them a more organic form while allowing us to achieve a look closer to our actual inspiration i.e. foliage. The collection also features several looks that include short, sheer dresses and jackets that are refreshing for the Indian couture runway.
A: What inspires Rahul Mishra? How did you manage to draw parallels between Monaco and the place you spent your childhood in, in Uttar Pradesh and put it all down in a collection?
RM: This collection takes inspirations from both my observations from the recent trip to romantic Monaco and the vivid memory of my childhood home in the sleepy village of Malhausi from Uttar Pradesh, India. 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. This collection celebrates the same connection between a home where one is born and a home that one finds during their self-granting escapades of travel; it is a celebration of the beauty of nature.
A: There were a lot of gender-fluid design elements in your design. Mannish-looking bandhgalas for women, long, slightly flared kurtas for men and hyper-feminine motifs for both. What was the thought process there?
RM: ‘Malhausi Monaco’ celebrates the emotions associated with a joyous human interaction with nature. It is an inquisitive articulation of feelings, independent of conformity in fashion.
Ultimately, gender is a heavily fashioned social phenomenon, and it's superfluous to follow these antediluvian guidelines so closely. With the silhouettes of our garments, the focus was only on the versatility of the individual pieces with more emphasis on the craftsmanship and detail.
A: What's next on the agenda for you in terms of showing your collection both in India and internationally?
RM: It is a constant effort from our side to bring our international sensibilities to the Indian runway while being respectful and considerate of our country’s distinct heritage. Whereas internationally, we strive to represent India amongst a league of International designers, justifiably by showcasing the best of what India has to offer to the world.
Catch the collection at the Aza Altamount store on 10th September.