July 25, 2019 Asmita Aggarwal

Grace of Monaco

The love for genda phool and pure nature gets a new canvas; abandoning geometry after three years Rahul Mishra pays homage to Monaco, not the elitist grand prix or Grimaldis, but humble unforgettables

By Asmita Aggarwal

There are a lot of things that Rahul Mishra says, one such pearl is “I am a control freak” and “if you call genda phool marigold, it loses its fragrance”. Maybe it is this innate honesty that makes him the “most wanted” man in fashion. Kering and LVMH both are eyeing for a share in his business and out of 1.3 billion Indians, well-read brides-to-be look up to him as a D-Day saviour.

Each year, Rahul wants to go a step further and attempt new textures and unfamiliar techniques, and the fear of failure doesn’t deter him. As he says there is no formula one can adhere to, but coherent evolution is the way forward. A lot of people in his burgeoning team are “intellectual nerds” so behind the scenes there is brainstorming, after looking at what international pundits are predicting. “I have had a couple of talks with LVMH and Kering but nothing has been fructified. Even for a role as a creative director for an international label. Right now I value my freedom and I put creativity over commerce. The fulcrum is not rampant selling but idea generation,” he says. It is almost like a college assignment, where you are told to think out-of-the-box and focus on fantasy.

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The ICW 2019 line, in collaboration with Visit Monaco, has not just Indian bridal, but some Western outfits too. You will be surprised to see reds which fell off the map suddenly. In the long run, you don’t need to carry a lot of weight on your shoulders to be able to keep going, is his philosophy, so he never rests on his laurels. But what is done in the past, is left in the past. “Beginning from zero gives you a certain undefined lightness, I like to be in that space,” he asserts.

In a world of excessive online interaction, designers are not spared if a “loose comment” is made, Mishra believes it is important to have an opinion whether the public agrees or not, it is up to them. “Sometimes you get rewarded for your beliefs and other times berated, but I do feel culturally women exhibit their emotions differently whether it is through makeup or clothes, it is quite individualistic,” he explains. For him, fashion is the most intimate way of expressing personal thoughts and his love for art.

The world can’t be summed up in two parameters as most people tend to believe, geometry and floral or curves and lines, there is a lot in between that misses the eye. Mishra’s love for painterly graphics, organza, which has no sheen or weight and “dissolves like a candle” gives him the power to mould it the way he desires. His other favourites include khadi, Maheshwari, Banerasi, Chanderi, muga silk, and Merino wool. Each garment is like a canvas and he approaches it like a painter, but what remains central is that the business must generate enough to give employment to his contingent of artisans.

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Last year, Mishra won the Best Designer Award for being a sustainable label given to him in Monaco. Most people would associate the principality, situated on France’s Mediterranean coastline with the American beauty Grace Kelly who married Prince Rainier III. But for Mishra the place reminded him of Malhousi, in his 8-10 day-long stay there. “In Europe, people respect nature, in India, we take everything for granted even the great weather,” he admits. Monaco boasts of lakes, full blooms, water lilies, natural spots, almost like the idyllic village he grew up in. “No one will believe when I call two diverse places similar, but there is vibrancy in the landscapes and the winter of Malhousi was like the summer of Monaco,” he explains.

The designer’s inspirations have been many from frescos and Muslim architectural jaalis, havelis, marbled corridors, sculptural tombs to Henri Rosseau and Pichwais. This time it was an ode to nostalgia, the beauty of being able to walk and reach your destination, the perks of being in a small modern “village” giving Mishra a child-like inspiration. “We decided to collaborate with Visit Monaco seven months ago and then it all came together, as we also did a show there last year,” he explains.

Construction, cut, colour and 3D along with white have been a constant in Mishra’s trajectory to fame, the couture week saw pictorial versions of scenic landscapes, from ducks floating in water to cranes and flora and fauna and genda phool ——-everything was displayed effectively on ensembles. “Roses are always romanced, there is an elegance about them, but if you go to any Indian wedding, you will notice that we make laadis out of marigold and hang them everywhere. It is used in abundance, it is such a beautiful flower with so much humility. This season it is my obsession,” he laughs.

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