March 19, 2024 FDCI

Voluminous Sculpting

Giant moths on chests, cutwork forests on body huggers and you throw in a little of Henri Rousseau and a children book, The Fox and the Star, you get Rahul Mishra’s inspiration behind his LFW X FDCI 2024 AFEW line.   

By Asmita Aggarwal

Would you ever wear the wing of a moth on your chest? If you believe in the philosophy of Rahul Mishra, you would as he would tell you that wing came from a combination of his two inspirations this season for the LFW X FDCI 2024 grand finale show in Mumbai. The first one is —– an illustrated children’s book The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith, a story about love, loss and learning to accept change and the second French painter Henri Rousseau better known for his jungle fantasy pictures, this largely made up the sense and sensibility of his pret line AFEW launched by RBL.

Maybe you can call sculpting his third passion, guessing by the sculptures placed on the runway in white, just like most of his collection this season! Animals, leaves and even branches, of course the moth that transformed into a rather Surrealist one and placed on blouses, and unless you are an intrepid dresser you would choose something less fantastical, as this is after all a pret line, so it didn’t need so many theatrics. Though one must give Mishra the boy, from humble beginning in Kanpur, A-grade for the way he manipulated aari embroidery, hand sculpting, cutwork, and patchwork in the line titled “The Sculpt”.

Few know that the real reigns of the label are with Divya, his wife, who may not be the public face of the brand, but the entire backend is run smoothly by her in a sprawling NOIDA space. The duo first met at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, both were studying apparel design, and she is the one who coerced Rahul not to leave the course midway. On another note, Rahul has had amazing good fortune too, he got the seed money to invest in his label which many can’t even dream of by winning the International Woolmark Prize in 2014, with the prize money of $100,000.

But it is Rahul’s not settling personality, and maybe a high degree of fearlessness that in 2020 he was the first Indian brand to showcase at the Paris Haute Couture Week run by the super snobby Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. You could see glimpses of his PFW line in AFEW, watered down yes, subdued for sure, but his love for larger-than-life cut outs trees, flowers, branches were all was there in its glory, sometimes colourful most of the times monochromatic.

The designer who grew up in Malhausi, studied in a school without a roof, is now from a star gazer, has turned into a red carpet favourite, and his love for shimmer this year was evident, sequins a mini avalanche of them were placed below his roomy pants, covered up with net, at other times as tapered pants and turtle necks, a testimony to this obsession. Draped skirts were another favourite, fabric manipulations seemed to be making a strong presence just like his exaggerated shoulders, an ode to the women heading boardrooms in the 80s.

Checkerboard skirts that gave women an hour glass figure, he also serenaded the viral Instagram trend where you can now wear your skirts over your pants, however uncomfortable that might be! He used Hindi iconography on his sheer tees for men, something that current Insta star Orry would certainly pick up from him, or maybe will receive as a “gift”.

The collection from ivories and charcoals moved to a brighter space, with exaggerated flowers, almost 3 D, as he went a little gimmicky too, with a revolving stage and models playing dress up! But the crux of the matter is that the ubiquitous pant-suit bigger and better is not going anywhere soon, it is still loved, and so are pleated midis, though Rahul decided to add some glamour to his denim too! Hems of his pants now shimmered and sparkled, as dirty pinks took centerstage.

To end the spectacle of a mixed line where you could time travel to the Amazon jungle with his cut work pieces, or select a more studied but restraint approach to dressing with his well-crafted white shirts, Bollywood sweet heart Ananya Pandey sure went for a skinny, body con dress to show off her washboard abs. But with the entire forest on your sleeve or hem or chest, Rahul Mishra told us he is really in love with his daughter as he is imagining it come alive on his clothes, like Aarna does in her imagination!

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