Rahul Mishra: Fashion's new poster boy

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PRIDE IN HIS ROOTS: Models displaying nature-inspired designs by Rahul Mishra at India Couture Week earlier this year
PRIDE IN HIS ROOTS: Models displaying nature-inspired designs by Rahul Mishra at India Couture Week earlier this year

Indian designer Rahul Mishra, a regular at Paris Fashion Week, comes to Dubai for the first time as part of The Couture Wedding Affair this weekend

By Sujata Assomull

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Published: Fri 9 Sep 2016, 9:15 PM

Last updated: Fri 9 Sep 2016, 11:21 PM

"A national treasure" is how famed fashion critic Suzy Menkes has described Indian designer Rahul Mishra. A previous winner of the International Woolmark Prize, he has been showing in Paris for four seasons now - and will take to the ramp in the fashion capital again during Paris Fashion Week in October. His label retails out of Paris's Collette and London's Harvey Nichols - yet he never forgets his Indian roots and shows at India Couture Week too. And what Mishra brings to Dubai this weekend is a combination of his Indian Couture Week collection and his Fall/Winter 2016 that was presented in Paris earlier this year.

PRIDE IN HIS ROOTS: Models displaying nature-inspired designs by Rahul Mishra at India Couture Week earlier this year.- Photo by Mehtaab Mann
The 36-year-old hails from Kanpur, and is never shy to talk about his humble upbringing; he says it could be a reason why he is such a supporter of Indian crafts. He is known for giving traditional handcrafts a very modern feel and often adds a very architectural feel to his work; in his Indian lines, he tends to use hand-woven fabrics and prefers a more covered up style of blouses for saris and lehengas. This could be because he is very partial to the jacket: it is a silhouette he's been focused on since his launch collection at Lakme Fashion Week in 2006 while he was still a student.
In keeping with the Indian bridal theme, the couture collection is very romantic; scalloped edges and florals were a favoured motif. His use of khadi, chanderi and mutka silks proved that beautiful handloom fabrics can be bridal too. Inspired by German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel's work, Mishra called his collection 'Monsoon Diaries'. And nature will once again be referred to at his upcoming Paris Spring/Summer 2017 showing, with rainforests being an inspiration. "It is really interesting to note that these rainforests cover six per cent of the Earth, yet they contain more than half of the world's plant and animal species," he says.
The collections for Paris Fashion Week tend to be even more exaggerated when it comes to shapes; the handcrafted embroideries are intricate and delicate, but he makes an urban statement by using dimensions and designs in a very global manner. For his Paris Fall/Winter 2016, for example, patterns from traditional Chinese porcelain were combined with India's traditional form of tie and dye, bandhani. This lover of natural fabrics introduced neoprene for the first time into his catwalk collections. He will be experimenting with more new textiles at his next Paris showing. "There's a childlike approach in the next collection which takes a cue from French artist Henri Rousseau's work," he notes.
Mishra comes to Dubai just 20 days before he presents his next collection, but he believes this is an international city that is of importance to a designer like him. He says: "As we keep showcasing at international platforms like Paris Fashion Week, our prominent presence in Dubai is inevitable and we will keep targeting Dubai's ever-expanding market in the international as well as Indian couture category."
Mishra is not the only Indian designer to have shown in Paris; Manish Arora (who is now more or less based in the French capital), Rajesh Pratap Singh and Ritu Beri have all shown there. But Mishra has managed to keep the balance between his first market, India, and the market every designer wishes to make a mark on: Paris. By debuting his first Indian couture line last year, he sent a clear message out:  India will always be his home. Says the designer, "Long back, I learnt that to create a strong international brand, one has to be equally strong in your home country. Indian couture is a huge market. It not only creates an opportunity to get into a new market but also generates a huge potential for increasing the body of work which I do at Paris Fashion Week."
And as his position in Paris becomes stronger, Dubai could be the natural next market to focus on: it is strategically located and also has that blend of East and West. Says Mishra, "Dubai is a tenacious international platform for us. Also, we have a few retailers from Dubai who carry our label and buy directly from our Paris Fashion Week showcasing and showroom in Paris. Coming back to the Indian couture collection, there is a huge population living in Dubai that offers an opportunity for the extension of this Indian line. It is quite similar to how we are doing things in London, where stores like Harvey Nichols and Feathers carry our international line while stores like Aashni & Co carry our Indian bridal line."
So while this time around, Mishra comes to Dubai with a line-up of other designers - also showing at The Couture Wedding Affair by Harper's Bazaar Bride India are Rohit Bal, Gaurav Gupta, Amit Agarwal among others) - he could become a more permanent part of Dubai's fashion scene.

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