Indian designers cement their place at Paris Fashion Week
The Indians are not just coming -- they have arrived. Paris fashion week is more Indian than ever, with two designers from the subcontinent cementing their place at style's top table.
Rahul Mishra confirmed his reputation as one of fashion's rising stars with an autumn winter womenswear collection of great restraint and purity. In contrast, the never less-than-spectacular Manish Arora bathed in the glory of being awarded one of France's highest honours by filling his catwalk with celebrity models that included the artist Sophie Calle.
The two designers could not be more different, yet both were as far from the subcontinental cliches of saris and sequins as you can imagine. Arora, a Paris favourite who formerly headed the Paco Rabanne label, drew on Americana and Africa rather than India for his Wild West themed "Hell's Belles" show that he called "mad".
But its "Twin Peaks on Haribo" look went down a storm with his fans, who particularly loved the zany way he rebooted humble denim jackets and skirts with tribal embroidery and African wax print fabrics. With his newly awarded Legion d'Honneur -- a kind of French knighthood -- in his pocket, the Mumbai-born designer cut loose with day-glo colours and prairie skirt combinations that were made to party.
"I am the first Indian creative to be rewarded for fashion and arts in France," he told reporters after the show. "It's exceptional, it took a long time to sink in. Trust the French to find you and tell you that you deserve it."
'Slow things down'
The younger Mishra has also been feeling the love, even though his restrained palette never strayed much further than royal blue, black and cream, with a little bit of pale yellow creeping in at the end.
The 37-year-old designer, who won the prestigious International Woolmark Prize two years ago, told AFP that his new line was inspired by the unconditional love of his five-month-old daughter. And you could feel a warm glow in the room as models walked out at the Palais de Tokyo modern art gallery.
The style bible Vogue loved it, praising the collection as "a new level of accomplishment" and the most "streetwise... fresh and contemporary of Mishra's designs". Vogue's legendary style guru Suzy Menkes had already pronounced herself a fan, saying "the delicacy of the knits, which were so fine that they could barely be identified as wool on the runway, was breathtaking."
Mishra -- who often quotes Gandhi -- has been praised for the way he has melded modern methods with India's amazing craft traditions. He imports Merino wool from Australia which is then transformed by rural workers in remote corners of the country.
"The entire approach we follow is craft-based, village-based and sustainable, which can be credited to my humble upbringing," the science graduate from rural Uttar Pradesh told AFP. "There is such craftmanship, money cannot make people work like that, it is done for the love of creating things like this," said Mishra, who called his show, "It Felt Love".
He said for him the magic is in the hidden artistry which the eye cannot see, picking up a sari T-shirt which was concealed by a dress to show the "hand embroidery and stitching done in the villages". "When the world is ruled by machines we need to slow down things and create something with love and ideas. We need to soak into techniques," he added. Mishra said he was trying to put poetry back into people's lives.
The collection's signature white and royal blue colours came from Chinese porcelain, he said, with some of the skirts cut from material normally used for elegant table cloths. "It's all about things which touch the heart," he said. "We love sipping coffee or tea from a beautiful china cup. And it is the same for clothes. We don't create them just for functionality." (AFP)
Photos: AFP and Vogue