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Ahead of his digital show for the Paris Couture Week 2021, we talk to the designer Rahul Mishra about his mushrooming creative expression, his concepts of sustainability and the recent collaboration with Swarovski Confluence.

Profile image Rahul Mishra

“When the last tree is felled, life will sprout from the cracks and blanket what is left behind. The starry night will conspire with crystal dew drops and concoct an array of bright hued mushrooms,” reads the poetic release for Rahul Mishra’s Couture Spring 2021 collection. Inspired by the sprouting of mushrooms in hostile land and how they grow without any external nourishment. The collection, titled ‘The Dawn’ is a statement on how despite all the damage and neglect we inflict on the earth it will continue to survive. However, the same cannot be said about the human species and the collection serves as a reminder not only to save the planet but ourselves in the process.

The digital presentation is shot at the Kishangarh Marble Dumpyard in Rajasthan by Hormis Antony Tharakan & Taha Ahmad, and directed by Keya Vaswani & Nidhi Karmath. The colour drained backdrop is juxtaposed with Mishra’s vibrant collection that represents the start of life in an uninhabitable place. This utopian collection is a visual representation of sprouting mushrooms with tree bark textures. Each piece is hand embroidered on tulle and silk organza with embellished 3D wildflowers and paired with stunning Oceedee shoes. As Rahul Mishra meticulously replicates these live forms, the outfit silhouettes are fluid and adaptable.

The collection marks Mishra’s return to the Paris Couture Week albeit a digital one. While the designer might not be holding court at the French capital, we talk to him about taking Indian fashion to the global stage, his continued sustainability efforts and even his favourite piece from the collection.

What are the standout pieces in this collection and what makes them unique?

In the past few collections, 3D embroidery has become an integral part of our design language and while it was earlier expected to lend adaptability, the motifs began to rise out of the surface and eventually navigate the silhouette of the garment. The evolution of how the ‘process of creation’ particularly defines these garments, and the craftsmanship they represent is a good differentiating point.
Our Couture Spring 2021 Collection, ‘The Dawn’ has emerged out of intense contemplation during the past few months of uncertainty and darkness. While couture allows us to further our core philosophies of sustainable and ethical luxury, it’s also an avenue for pure creative expression. Having taken more than six months of time for articulation, this collection has been a wonderful creative journey in which the first garment that I had sketched had been a kind of milestone. It was the piece that took the longest to visualise and execute with several hits and trials, experiments and corrections.
The drama that is staged by the mushrooms growing through the growth circles of a tree aims to represent the essence of a beginning amidst nature’s magic.

Rahul Mishra Sketch

Couture presentations are expressed in numbers – from hours put into a single garment to number of beads/motifs etc. Tell us about the hard work that went behind the scenes to create this collection.

At Rahul Mishra, we constantly believe that ‘craftsmanship’ is a parameter with which luxury may be evaluated and we hope to cultivate fashion that holds these values of emotion, longevity and humanity. We began working on this collection quite early on in 2020 parallel to other projects but it took more than six months of research and development to create the first few samples. Each of the garments is engineered individually with unique pattern making techniques in order to accommodate the three dimensional mushroom embroideries and monitor their fall and weight on the silhouette. Hundreds of kinds of hand embroidery techniques were meticulously combined with other surface exploration in order to achieve the desired look and feel. The shapeshifting silhouettes are light in weight, and can be effortlessly carried despite the thousands of hours of intricate details they represent.

Rahul Mishra Couture Spring 2021.

This collection marks your return to Paris Haute Couture Week. What were the key lessons and learnings from your first experience?

The first two times have been unique experiences in themselves because one was a runway presentation in January 2020, and the next was an online showcase during the pandemic. This new journey with Couture more than anything else, has helped us understand why we do what we do and find within ourselves, heightened confidence and self-assurance. Couture had been a ray of hope and positivity, amidst the nation-wide lockdown and the migrant crisis but the sense of community and togetherness induced by the mutual trust and love between our team kept us afloat and how! This has allowed us to explore our creative expression further and truly revel in the satisfaction that is gained from it. This has also motivated us to take bigger risks and articulate through the heart.

You’ve spoken about ‘decentralisation of production’ as an important step in creating sustainable fashion practices. Can you expand on the same.

To me, ‘sustainability’ is an ever evolving concept. It means differently for different people. I still remember how our mothers and grandmothers passed on their clothes to the next generations. My grandmother used to spin her own yarn out of white cotton and get it woven from a local weaver so as to make her sarees. She would even block print those white sarees with a homemade indigo dye. Local craft and handloom of our country continues to hold those aspects of our culture and it is my understanding that sustainability in fashion—and all other ways of life—are just how our culture was built. We may have strayed away from it but with suitable design intervention in the industry, and slight modernisation, those aspects of our lifestyle may gain some relevance for the current times.
To us at Rahul Mishra, sustainability is about these 3 E’s—environment, employment and empowerment where we aim to look at clothing with a lens of participation rather than consumption.

Share with us the details of your recent collaboration with Swarovski Confluence.

Rahul Mishra x Swarovski Confluence
Image: Rahul Mishra x Swarovski Confluence

In the past, we have had the opportunity to adorn our couture garments with Swarovski crystals and pearls. Their unique, diaphanous pieces have often enhanced the look and feel of our clothes and helped articulate the creative vision more effectively. Hence, the new jewellery collaboration rather came out organically, as we decided to take a step forward to bring together the two covetable art forms and translate our philosophies and point of view into a new medium. The whole process has been a pleasure for us as we visualize our brand aesthetic taking a new form – of jewellery.
An ode to Spring is a representation of beauty, positivity and hope, during an otherwise dark time. This past year, nature narrated a wonderful story by healing itself and revealing its allure. This collection of lightweight and delicate pieces of jewellery represents wildflowers, sunshine and the morning dew. It is a poetic expression confectioned in Swarovski pearls and crystals in hues of blush, turquoise and green with a design language that aims to elevate one’s mood and personality without distracting from it. The otherwise overwhelming gleam is crafted to the delicacy of dew drops, so as to scintillate with one’s smile while maintaining a level of intimacy with the wearer.

Catch Rahul Mishra’s show online here.

Images: Courtesy Rahul Mishra 

Akshita Nahar Jain
Sr Associate Editor
Akshita Nahar Jain has worked with various publications, including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar Bride, and Time Out Delhi, and written extensively on fashion and lifestyle. A sucker for alliteration and shows with more style than script, she enjoys scrolling the web for less travelled destinations.