Exclusive: Rahul Mishra on using fashion as a medium of expression & bridging the gap between fashion & art

In our exclusive tête-à-tête with fashion designer, Rahul Mishra tells the art of storytelling through fashion and also decodes his iconic creations worn by Zendaya, Shraddha Kapoor, and many more!

Updated on Oct 14, 2022   |  07:36 PM IST  |  231.2K
Rahul Mishra on using fashion as a medium of expression
Rahul Mishra on using fashion as a medium of expression

Celebrity fashion designers are often under the pressure to create unique and statement-making designs and stay relevant to the changing pendulum of trends. Rahul Mishra has been one of the designer names that celebrities have been proudly relying on for red carpets, weddings and other special events. He has never failed the fashion pundits in offering vibrant and chic looks in both Indian and contemporary silhouettes. The homegrown label has carved a niche for itself over the years and we got in touch with the designer himself his secret to staying relevant and trendy in the business of fashion. Read on to get inspired!

1. The name Rahul Mishra paints the image of 3D applique floral works and multi-colour extravaganza in our minds. How do you see it and how do you think the brand has evolved over the years?  

For us at Rahul Mishra, it has always been about the process rather than the product. We started our journey in 2006 with the handlooms of Kerala, aiming to support the indigenous craft communities of India and bringing employment to their homes in the villages, experimenting with drapes and silhouettes. Each of the looks in the collection was reversible to portray a sense of versatility, surprise and longevity through clothing. Comfortable to wear, the garments that were deeply rooted in tradition, still carried a sense of modernity. The genesis of the 3D hand embroidery that is synonymous with our brand started off as monochromatic geometric explorations which have now, with our latest showcase at the Paris Haute Couture Week, been realised as photorealistic vivid poppies, gold leaves and petals. Articulated in intricate threadwork and mixed media two and three-dimensional embroideries, the pieces also remain very lightweight and are also practical.  

While we are constantly evolving in terms of technological intervention and exploration of techniques and applications, the core intention remains to articulate a vision that emerges from a personal experience. While the purpose behind the creation of each product is to employ more and more people and touch lives.  

2. Do you experience creative blocks? If so, how do you overcome it?  

I think it’s natural for a designer to experience blocks in the creative process from time to time.  Personally, I find that diversifying the range of my creative thinking besides fashion really helps in keeping my mind stimulated. I have always taken interest in other fields of design like graphic design, furniture design and architecture to name a few. As they say, knowledge is power. Lately, I have been quite invested in the space design of our new atelier in Noida which has very much expanded my approach to design, it has been a constant learning process. I believe that it is curiosity and not skill that keeps one relevant and fresh.  

3. Fashion, being a crowded business emporium, what is your take on supporting the community over competition?  

I have always shared a deeply personal relationship with my artisans. Since the inception of our brand, the intention has been to ‘collaborate’ with the weavers and embroiderers and not simply employ them. Even today, I spend most of my time interacting with the tailoring and embroidery team at the atelier—sitting with them, interacting with their families and taking their feedback about work. We laugh and celebrate together, like family and take care of each other,  like family too. They are in a way, my first critics too.  

4. What are the three thoughts that run through your mind before and after every successful fashion show? 

As a designer showcasing in Paris over the past few years— first with our RTW line at Paris  Fashion Week and more recently, with Couture at Haute Couture Week, we’ve found many 

memorable moments and experiences. I believe that it’s a huge privilege for a young brand like us to be amongst several iconic fashion houses and heritage brands on the same platforms. It brings with itself, a sense of responsibility and also motivation to continue to innovate in our best capacities so there is a kind of meditative chaos before the show where simultaneously I experience the anticipation and a rush but also feel grounded and grateful to be present there and reflect upon the months of hard work that have gone into the collection moments before it is unveiled for the world to see.  

5. While the less is moretrend has taken over the world, what's your take on Do More, Be More

Even though the forefront of our brand is fashion and design, what we are truly focused on is the sustenance of systems. Our operation is designed to critically think about putting another piece out into the world and what environmental, social, cultural, and personal needs are being answered in doing so. On that front, we abide by the ‘less is more’ philosophy as we are able to sustain and employ Indian craft communities without overproducing. To us, enabling conversations about ethical and cultural sustainability is of more importance to us than the product. We take pride in employing craft communities from across India and our family is ever-expanding. I’ve had the perpetual dream to one day employ 1 million artisans and that’s a long-term goal that has fuelled me for years and that for us brings a value of ethical sustainability. Hence, by doing more we are able to expand so as to get closer to achieving this dream.

6. What are the 3 current trends that you are loving and a trend that you think is done to death?  

We create fashion independent of trends and seasons, clothes that find the same relevance in someone’s wardrobe even years after they were purchased. I think there is huge attention to individual expression, which is great. People are looking at more environment-conscious and hand-crafted options so as to emotionally invest in a piece, hence increasing the longevity of the piece. People are also looking to buy pieces that are versatile in terms of silhouette, colour and style such that they can be worn multiple times. 

7. How do you work around to make the fashion house Rahul Mishra stand out from the crowd apart from its craft-rich embroideries and jovial colour themes?  

We look at fashion as a medium of expression, where the collections emerge from my personal experiences and the larger purpose of empowering our artisans.  

I actively seek inspiration from my personal experiences and aspirations. Something I’m learning from my six-year-old daughter is to be endlessly curious—like a child. I find pleasure in observing nature and looking at it from the fresh eyes of a toddler. This is prominent in the way our clothes imitate nature through thread and needle and aim to illustrate the botanicals through two and three-dimensional embroideries.  

Borrowing from my personal experiences of travel, akin to an artist, I aim to paint my own renditions of the landscapes that I view. Just the way Van Gogh would or Monet would. It’s safe to say that no two products are ever created the same due to the handmade nature of the pieces and that bridges the gap between our fashion and art. And despite their intricate details—after having been created over thousands of human hours, each piece retains the quality of being feather-weight and diaphanous which makes it quintessentially Rahul Mishra. That is the kind of value that we wish to cultivate in the luxury that we create and I am humbled to say that our brand becomes more synonymous with this thought by the day.  

In some of our past collections showcased at Paris Haute Couture Week or back home in India,  there are several references of my past travels and self-sustaining natural ecosystems that are 

found in nature and I would like to mention that this is simply how I see the world. Divided between man-made structures of architecture and nature, that exists in its purest form and those two aspects of my life inspire me. 

8. What's your favourite Indian craftwork and why?  

Like I said before, since it is our design language in a certain sense, I’d have to say hand embroidery, which is really an umbrella term for the multitude of techniques from all across the Indian subcontinent. We use a contemporary application of these techniques to translate our artworks;  this also allows us to slow down our process to be in sync with the earth’s rhythm. Hand embroidery being a slow process, it helps us create employment with a steady income for our karigars.  For our latest collection, for example, showcased at Paris Haute Couture Week in July, it took us over a month to make the first sample. I believe that our craftsmanship and painterly embroideries amongst other elements, add a lot of value to our product. 

9. Decoding 4 memorable looks of celebs in Rahul Mishra and what went behind the making of the outfit.  

Shraddha Kapoor In Rahul Mishra

Shraddha Kapoor is wearing the custom-made oceanic blue ‘Daisy’ lehenga for her brother’s wedding in the Maldives. The lehenga is adorned by sequinned stripes and three-dimensional Daisy flowers that look as if they float on the dazzling cerulean waters of the Maldives. The daisies have been individually embroidered and tacked by hand using Resham and sequins.  

Zendaya In Rahul Mishra

Zendaya wears ‘Sheer 3D hand-embroidered Ivory Organza Multi Leaf Long Jacket with Black Silk Taffeta Straight Pants’ as styled by Law Roach from ‘Home’, our Spring Couture 2020 collection. Each leaf is embroidered, hand cut and separately tacked on the base fabric over hundreds of human hours of time. 

Karishma Kapoor In Rahul Mishra

Karishma Kapoor is wearing our hand-embroidered ‘Himadri’ pantsuit with mutton sleeves. It renders a fantastical collection of colourful florals in quintessential multimedia embroideries from our atelier, inspired by my first-hand experience of a Himalayan Spring.  

Dia Mishra In Rahul Mishra

Dia Mirza is wearing our 3D hand-embroidered 'Tree of Life' gown featuring extensive golden thread work and an array of materials including Kundan, sequins, beads and cords. Realised over hundreds of human hours, the piece encourages employment and empowerment. 

 

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Also Read: Exclusive: Ponniyin Selvan: I costume designer Eka Lakhani on styling characters, working with Mani Ratnam

About The Author

Gayathri PR is a Fashion Communication graduate from NIFT who likes to express her ardent love for all things beauty and... Read more

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