SILHOUETTES OF A NEW NATION

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, Fashion

Fashion designer Rahul Mishra on taking India to Paris and why craftsmen are the Indian fashion industry’s greatest assets

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be in a creative profession – become an artist or a filmmaker. When I applied to the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, my qualification as a science graduate wasn’t good enough for the film/ video discipline and I was offered the apparel design and merchandising course instead. That’s where fashion, and the dream of showcasing at Paris Fashion Week, found me.

Parisian dreams

It is every fashion designer’s dream to showcase at Paris Fashion Week – it is arguably the number one fashion week in the world, with global heavyweights such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga and Hermes showcasing. So it’s a dream come true for a brand like us to be amid these iconic fashion houses. Being a part of the Paris Fashion Week improves my work and constantly pushes my aesthetics into new directions. That’s what I have loved the most about it through the years. And being an Indian designer gives me a creative edge there – I am lucky to be from a country that has such a large population of talented and skilled artisans. Paris is where I can dream, and India is where I can realise that dream.

Indian at heart

It has been challenging to create something using the traditional crafts of India that is essentially universal. Fashion celebrates individuality, and we want to maintain an Indian-ness in our clothes that tells the world where we are from. Globally, I have seen that people have a lot of respect for Indian craftsmanship; my task as a designer is to separate the ethnic feel from the ethnic technique, and to create a more global product. That’s what the world is seeking, which India can easily provide.

Handloom stories

I felt really privileged when the Ministry of Textiles asked me to work with Assamese handloom, with weaver clusters in Guwahati, for Textile India – a conclave and exhibition held in Ahmedabad recently. It is the richest, most diverse cluster I have ever worked with, and the experience was extremely enriching. For me, the future of handloom lies in product diversification. Since the young generation does not wear traditional Indian garments on an everyday basis, we need to create modern, accessible products using handloom and I’m happy to be involved in this endeavour. Smriti Irani, Union Minister of Textiles, is taking a keen interest, and I’m glad that handloom is rising again. The ideology of reverse migration that accompanies the rise of handloom in India is not only a new way to support crafts but also to ensure livelihoods for the craftsmen responsible for their survival. It’s an almost Gandhian concept of empowering our villages.

Craft calling

Craft is becoming the focus of Indian fashion today and the quality of products that we get from Indian craftsmen and weavers is one of the Indian fashion industry’s strongest assets. I have tremendous respect for how inclusive the industry is, and how it isn’t following Western footsteps but paving its own way forward. India also has the right combination of resources for a sustainable fashion system in terms of the environment, society and products.

Looking ahead

The Indian fashion industry is still young – we’re at an adolescent stage. French fashion is more than 250 years old, while our fashion weeks are barely 15 years old. Looking ahead, I hope to see the rise of Indian brands that are strong enough to be retailed across the globe. Also, we need to look at sustainable practices as an entire system to take care of the 3 Es: environment, employment and empowerment.

– As told to Nandini D Tripathy

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