August 29, 2021 Asmita Aggarwal

Redesigning History

Scanning through the dust bowls of cities, Rahul Mishra finds abandoned 200-year-old homes which shine despite the decay, in a line that celebrates heritage minus the sheen, and intermingles age-old architecture with modern silhouettes

By Asmita Aggarwal

Rahul Mishra is a man of many hidden talents that he lets you discover along the way, like he learnt filmmaking as an elective subject during his NID days in Ahmedabad. This skill helped him in the new digital world, where he believes it is not about making a beautiful montage of images, but in actuality a film where fashion plays a key role.

The perfectionist, who often delves into the past not nostalgically, rather connects it to the present through his contemporary silhouettes that empower modern women. His quest this year began with looking for homes which had withstood the test of time, architecture which seemingly holds testament to lost time, it was no longer about creating “wow” imagery, but capturing emotions.

This thread of thoughts began with his “Shape of Air” line for Paris Couture Week, where he shot in a black box, just like what our lives have been reduced to due to the pandemic. Caught in the circle of everyday life, we still show fortitude to carry on! “Location is an object of storytelling and not meant to be used for great imagery, rather ‘apt’ imagery,” he exudes.

And when we talk of couture, we wear it less, we wear it for years to come, it must have longevity, so Paris Couture Week, is more of live art.

While the India Couture Week line, he has been working on since last year —- it has taken him almost two lockdowns to launch this. “This line is an outcome of the journey of the brand; what it has faced, it is more of a state of being and has been done at its own pace,” he adds.

The PCW is only a 20 piece line, while the ICW collection has a bigger expanse at 40-50 ensembles and more about displaying techniques he has mastered. The surface texturing is a continuous process, but the treatment of the theme is quite unique. Rahul didn’t want to shoot in a palace hotel nor an exotic location, what he aspired for was a location that had once been a product of hard work for a family. And he found these marvels, abandoned houses without any seepage, marred by cobwebs, with imposing Peepal trees in the courtyard, colourful frescos still holding on to their charm and lived lives of its inmates who left it forlorn. Rahul found beauty in these silenced homes. “I began to look for heritage in them, like a poet needs an audience, God a devotee and beauty a beholder, I was looking for the families who made them with perseverance and one day just left these ‘jewels’ to move to bigger cities,” he explains.

Houses outlive the makers, is an irrefutable truth and the process of making a home is not new to Rahul who has found a little place in Uttarakhand which he hopes will be his retirement place. Not a fan of minimalism, he believes it is a remnant of a colonial hangover, as they wanted us to adopt everything machine-made, and forget our true ornate traditions. “If you look closely at some of these abandoned houses, the detailing is fabulous, carved stone windows, wooden doors, even the locks and handles were created so beautifully,” he exclaims.

Chanderi has been his focus for almost ten years, even though no one was ready to buy his organza lehengas when he started —- they were lightweight and super easy to wear with painterly motifs created out of intricate thread work sans any studded stones. Now of course, there has been a growing acceptance and also demand for his Muga silk, Banarasi, cutwork and chanderi with zari woven in it, fabrics that he has created for the ICW line.

Menswear too is no longer “simple” but to call it gender fluid would be too much of a cliché, even though it resembles something that both Maharajas and Maharanis wore Anarkalis to kalidar kurtas, the dress code was common. The idea therefore began to juxtapose 200-year-old architecture with current embroideries, minus the need for artificial glamour created in hotels with the leatherite, cement jaalis to laser cut jharokhas.

With social media becoming a game changer, Rahul believes storytelling is important, but brides don’t buy stories, they want an ensemble that accentuates their identity and personality.   “Brides choose for the entire family, from MIL to FIL and even the groom, she is the change-maker. We really need to celebrate the buyer, as we have always heaped praises on designers and craftspeople, because if there are no sales and women don’t respect what we do, it’s game over,” he asserts.

His motifs range from mushrooms, capturing how water effortlessly falls, wild flowers, and not band, baja, baarat, or something straight out of a book from a museum with a decadent look frozen in time and desperately revived. “Future really is when you create something without any reference,” he concludes.


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