Couturier Rahul Mishra is a conversation starter, a dialogue initiator that’s why couture for him is about a narrative that transcends the discussion about silhouettes, shapes or forms. ICW 2023 was an ode to sequins, flowers and the king of the jungle!
By Asmita Aggarwal
Protests and Paris are almost synonymous, maybe it is just the freedom of expression that permeates into every aspect of a Parisiennes life—food, art, design, and décor. As the fashion capital of the world was burning in 2023, the Paris Couture Week, was setting new benchmarks for innovation.
Lives were lost, protests abound, despite the tension, buyers were lined outside Goyard to buy, so the beauty of it all is that in the day they work in the high fashion sector, and evening also weekends artisans are out on the streets protesting low wages, albeit peacefully! Celine cancelled its PCW show, but on a bright Saturday evening, the next day Azzedine Alaia showcased on a beautiful bridge, open air, it was certainly a mixed bag.
In this conundrum Rahul Mishra too showcased ‘luxury at a time of crisis’, for the 20th season, with a massive investment of Rs 3-4 crore to put up the show at PCW, with the belief that couture is for the millions of artisans, less for the buyers, making it need-based. Paris being a difficult terrain, in many ways, the couturier admits it improves his body of work. Almost boosting his confidence and is the “beginning of a dialogue”. It is more about creativity than commerce and the brand is not solely India-centric, but global in its approach, which is why a store in Paris is in the offing for Rahul as well as another one in Dubai.
The relationship with luxury is almost like poetry, an art form, demanding, sometimes frustrating, but hugely liberating for him. If India Couture Week is a business spinner, Paris Couture Week is a “breather”, as he displays his love for organza, chanderi, anything that is challenging is his favourite, he admits.
So ‘We the People” his line channels the ideology that comfort is non-fulfilment and the germination of the idea began when he was taking a flight back from Paris and read a news article, “India will overtake China in the population race” . He returned to his sprawling NOIDA factory and bounced the idea with his team, only to be rejected. He had to get back to the moodboard, and rethought—they looked within and around, the consensus was to celebrate the hands that bring his creativity to life. “It was changed to what people mean to us, as our atelier is a mini-India, we have artisans from all over the country, different faiths uniting as one,” he explains.
Interestingly, it is now a brand “by the people, of the people” and every step along the way, this line was beset with uphill tasks—first graphic to artworks, a conscious decision to stay away from colour, which is not typical India, resulting in a line that is more like a fine arts study. This is the reason why Zendaya wore his unique take on the sari, which looked like a gown, reflecting the serene blue cosmos with little sparkler showers.
The couturier admits style is now for global citizens—it has blurred geographical boundaries—New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo, the lehenga is now a skirt, worn with a crop top. The intrepid couturier wanted to change the concept from a white wedding to a charcoal one-you wore black and it was accepted. “You have to present a new version of India in Paris,” says Rahul. If you observe closely, half of the haute couture presented in Paris, is all sourced and embroidered in India, in many ways it is generating employment, and internationally this is the only segment still celebrating hand-made skills.
The ready-to-wear industry is making corporations wealthy, but the couture world is giving purpose to embroiderers, and the super-rich are unaffected in the rough and tumble of the Sensex or bulls and bears, they will always buy. “Any kind of transaction is good for the economy, clothes only constitute a small fraction of the entire wedding budget in India,” he confesses.
Being a science student Rahul is good with numbers, is intuitive, unafraid of making mistakes, and potentially the domestic market is perfect for bridal wear and will never wane. Add to this the mammoth strength of Bollywood to catapult visibility, but everything must be in moderation, Ralph and Russo went bankrupt and Tamara and Michael, the founders had to exit, maybe because they didn’t understand the aspects of finance and strategy. Shraddha Kapoor was his muse on a houseful evening at the J W Marriott hotel, the venue for his ICW showcasing, sponsored by Hyundai.
The India Couture Week 2023 had many firsts for Rahul, but each of his ensembles have an identity, like the monochromatic piece with the tiger jumping on the cot, was telling a story in threadwork, like always the animal kingdom is well represented, as reality meets imagination in each piece he presented.