Colour is India’s over-hyped commodity, fashion designer Rahul Mishra says

March 31, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are not those of Thomson Reuters)

Rahul Mishra is the man of the moment in fashion. He just brought home the international Woolmark Prize, the most coveted prize in the fashion world, and one that has gone to some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Karl Lagerfeld.

Mishra, who made his debut at the Lakme Fashion Week in 2006, has created a new kind of fibre from Merino wool that can be worn in the summer. Mishra’s fashions will be on sale at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, Harvey Nichols in London, 10 Corso Como in Milan, Colette in Paris and elsewhere.

Mishra spoke to Reuters on day three of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in New Delhi. Here are excerpts from the interview.

Q. Tell me something about the fibre that you have created.
A. My idea was how can I change the entire notion behind wool being a winter fibre. It’s such a beautiful fibre, but half the world doesn’t even receive serious winters so it can’t be used by so many people. So I thought, can I make wool so thin and lightweight that it turns into a spring summer-fibre? Some of these garments are going to be far more comfortable than their cotton counterparts, and you can wear them in 50 degree centigrade (122 degree fahrenheit) temperature in Delhi.

Q. How did the idea of creating a completely new fibre come to you?
A. I am a control freak, I want to control my yarns, I want to control the fibre which I am using for my designs, that is what gives it uniqueness. I rarely work with ready fabrics which are existing in the market, I am never satisfied with those. If I can create something which is so unique a textile, which does not exist in any other brand in the world, I can express myself in a far more effective way. And this I can do because I am in India and I have got access to hand loom, and a huge archive of beautiful textiles which are woven in India. My idea is to look really far back into the past and create something for today, for the future.

Q. Does the Indian fashion market give you space to experiment?
A. Sometimes when you make the market an excuse, that the market is this and market wants that, it’s all rubbish I would say. It’s completely your choice what you want to do. A lot of times the market doesn’t know what they really need. I can foresee it much before them. I remember, in Milan, people like Alexa Chung of British Vogue, Tim Blanks of style.com, everyone was touching my clothes like they were kids, and they are gods in fashion. So getting that kind of a reaction validates that you have to listen to your heart and you will get an audience.

Q. As an Indian designer, are you targeting a completely international audience or do you think there is a market for your clothes in India?
A. That boundary only exists in our minds. The world is more global than ever before today. You don’t have to isolate fashion, you don’t have to create two lines. The only issue is pricing. Something which is selling for 1,500 pounds in Harvey Nichols in London, how do I sell it in India at the same price?

Q. Is there a stereotypical way that the world looks at Indian designers?
A. Definitely. I got a compliment from or comment from Tim Blanks that “I always thought that India is about fuchsias and oranges.” But in India there are just a few states that have that kind of kitsch. The rest of India, if you go south, there is Kerala cotton, there is jamdani, it’s all colourless. [People] always think that India is probably all about a flying cow on a shirt. A lotus done exactly the way a lotus looks like. Colour is a very over-over-hyped commodity about India. Dyeing in India — apart from indigo — all the bright colours are just 50 years old. Indigo farming happened in India during the British period. Most of the crafts in India are colourless. They had gold, zari as colour, or silver, that’s it.

MORE:

Room for experimentation at Delhi fashion week | Click here

Photo gallery: Best of Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week | Click here

(Editing by Robert MacMillan; Follow Arnika Thakur @arnikathakur and Robert Macmillan @bobbymacReports |This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced in any form without permission)

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