On July 7, designer and couturier Rahul Mishra became the first Indian to showcase at the digital Paris Haute Couture Week that ends today. The fashion week had labels like Maison Margiela, Elie Saab, Viktor&Rolf, Valentino, Chanel and Christian Dior among others presenting films to showcase their clothes instead of staging extravagant shows.
Rahul showcased 13 looks from his couture collection titled “Butterfly People” in a 10-minute long film shot in Delhi in collaboration with Hormis Antony Tharakan. The collection included long slip dresses, flowing maxis, voluminous skirts and capes in diaphanous fabrics like tulle, silk taffeta and organza. The colour palette pirouetted from salmon pink, peach, muted yellow to soft blue. Each ensemble had a multitude of multi-coloured embroideries and appliqué on it. The hand-embroidered 3D butterflies, dragonflies, birds and flowers gave a sense of a “garden growing on a piece of fabric”. A collection that was created amidst the Coronavirus pandemic had interesting maximalist face masks with 3D butterflies and flowers in myriad colours as a reminder to how life has changed for us.
In an exclusive chat with Cosmo India, Rahul talks about his inspiration behind the collection, the relevance of couture in the current times and his experience of being a part of the first-ever digital haute couture week.
Cosmo: What was your inspiration behind the collection?
Rahul Mishra: "I did not have a single point of inspiration this time, it was quite mixed. I took inspiration from the karigars (embroiderers and tailors) who work for me, the challenges they faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic and nature in the absence of human interruptions. I visualised the collection as a garden and myself as the gardener, the karigars are the butterflies, who keep coming back for work and help us in the process. When the lockdown was imposed, they stayed at home for a long time and I thought they would get used to not working. But some kept coming back for work. Even through their struggles, creating something beautiful gave them satisfaction. I have tried to capture the beauty of both--creation and struggle in this collection".
Cosmo: What is the relevance of couture in times like this?
RM: "The crisis has badly affected our lives. The last few months have been a time when the entire atelier struggled together. We ensured that every artisan is supported despite the countrywide official lockdown and an acute drop in sales. We were anxious, like the rest of the world, because everything seemed uncertain. Couture felt like a leap of faith. It united us as we started thinking, ideating, sketching from the safety of our homes and crafting the first samples with few embroiderers in the studio. I am often questioned on the need of clothes that are so indulgent, with such level of detail and extravagance. The core idea behind the luxury we are trying to cultivate is pushing for sustainable employment of the craft community. Indeed, there is an unperturbed expression of art through our motifs, but every stitch, every knot is strongly related to the present and future of an artisan, especially hit by the pandemic. Clothes become a powerful tool when they are used for employment".
Cosmo: What was the message that you tried to convey through the collection?
RM: "The message was to be kind to nature. The masks on the models were a reminder that if we destroy the rhythm of nature, then nature has its own way of balancing itself. While we stayed locked in our houses, the Delhi skies became bluer, migratory birds appeared in the city, nature looked happier and beautiful. Some of the masks recreate the lotus ponds, the dragonflies perched on floating leaves and butterflies hovering in the garden".
Cosmo: What traditional embroideries and techniques were used?
RM: "I used a lot of traditional embroideries. The idea was to showcase and celebrate the craftsmanship of the “Butterfly People”. I used Kantha for flowers, Aari stitches and cutwork on diaphanous fabrics like tulle, organza, silk taffeta. I also repurposed and used some of the waste fabrics lying in the atelier."
Cosmo: What does the colour scheme represent?
RM: "The colours represent the happy phase of nature. The Covid-19 pandemic has been bad for us but it has been a happy time for nature. Each piece is a work of art that captures nature in its glory".
Cosmo: How was the experience of being a part of the first-ever digital haute couture week?
RM: "I am happy to be a part of the digital event, this will go down in history as the first-ever haute couture week. Since this was a first for me, I learnt a lot. I shot the making process myself. I had learnt film making while at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. I got the opportunity to hone my skill, as I was a one-man crew and had to shoot while guiding the embroiderers and approving swatches. In the peak of summer in May, doing all this with a face mask and shield wasn’t easy. But I am happy the way things have turned out".
Cosmo: You are also a part of FDCI Digital Couture Week, which will be held towards the end of July in India, what are your plans for the event?
RM: "I will showcase my couture collection, the basis of which is the “Butterfly People” but there will be newer silhouettes and colours to suit the sensibilities of the Indian bridal market".