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On the Mark

Designer Rahul Mishra on becoming the first Asian to win the International Woolmark Prize.

Updated: February 26, 2014 6:16:57 pm


Designer Rahul Mishra's creation has Merino wool yarn embroidery on a Merino wool and silk blend fabric. Designer Rahul Mishra’s creation has Merino wool yarn embroidery on a Merino wool and silk blend fabric.

Ever since he was declared the winner of the International Woolmark Prize (IWP) at Milan Fashion Week on February 21, designer Rahul Mishra has been pulled into a series of whirlwind press interviews and buyer interactions. Thousands of miles away from his studio in Noida and many more from Malhausi, his native village near Kanpur, both exhausted and elated, the 34-year-old National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad) graduate, has spent hours responding to the outpour of celebratory messages on Twitter and Facebook during a pit-stop in Paris. “I joined social media recently and it’s amazing to see that some of the biggest fashion editors in the world are following me on Twitter now,” says Mishra. It has been an overwhelming few months for him, with the bereavement of an uncle “who was more like a father to me” and struggling to meet the IWP deadline. Excerpts from a chat:

How are you dealing with the compliments and fanfare?

I was giving interviews till 11 pm last night and I’ve spoken to media from Australia, Spain, China, Tokyo, New Zealand, The Netherlands, and the United States, apart from India. Among emails I received from fellow designers, there was a lovely one from designer Wendell Rodricks saying that he wants to see shops with my name in New York, Paris and Milan now. It’s been amazing.

How was the jury interaction?

It was extremely intimidating because the jury comprised some of the biggest names from the world of fashion. Tim Blanks of said that he thought India was all about fuchsia, orange and purple. I told him about the elegant whites from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. He called my design “scientific designing” because with nearly 95 per cent Merino wool and five per cent silk blend, the transparency of our wool fabric gives it a light spring-summer feel. Frida Giannini of Gucci said that it was the most original and unexpected collection of all. They all liked the storytelling ability of the line, which traced the journey of the wool from the sheep grazing in verdant green pastures into the hands of craftspeople and finally on to the ramps of the fashion capitals of the world. The process involves respecting nature, environment and animals, which brought in the Buddhist idea of non-violence and the eight-petal lotus being the embryo of the world.

You launched your eponymous label six years ago on the strength of your craftsmanship and have managed to uphold those ideals even today.

I’ve always said that my product is going through a creative evolution, but my philosophy will remain the same. I believe in the three Es — environment, employment and empowerment. Fashion and design have an amazing power to make a difference to many lives. Through fashion I can provide jobs where the craft originates from, thereby resulting in reverse migration. A Standard IV-pass weaver is able to communicate and work via android phones and Skype. Many of my craftspeople have bought cars and plots of land. That, to me, is empowerment. This is not a personal win, but a victory for our craft and my whole team.

We may not be the best designers, but we’re definitely the most passionate.

What’s next?

I hope to visit the Insituto Marangoni, where I studied for a year, when we return to Milan. We’re also committed to present a collection at Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn-Winter 2014 where I hope to showcase this particular line to audiences back home. Then, it’s on to delivering orders placed by stores such as Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue, David Jones, and 10 Corso Como, among others.

Kimi Dangor

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