WINTER came to Paris Fashion Week (PFW) in true Game of Thrones-style. Designer Manish Arora launched a frontal attack on Day Three of the Fall-Winter 2015 edition with violent colour, graphic prints and gilded armoury. With owls, ravens and dragons perched on shoulders and plastered on to clothes, skull-shaped minaudieres, helmets, capes, chains and feathers, and even a pageant-ish sash proclaiming “Winter Is Coming” — the references drawn from George RR Martin’s tale were blatant and the translation far from subtle. But, as fans of the maverick designer will tell you, more is always magical in Arora-land.
In contrast, Rahul Mishra’s “The Village”, showcased on the final day, was a study in subtlety, with embroideries, shades and shapes that whispered, quiet enough for you to hear bird-song, quite literally. Mishra had birds, sheep, flowers and village home rooftops embroidered onto his creations, like a “graphical sketchbook” reminiscing about the hamlet that he was born in. It also spoke of the journey of the wool extracted in Gurrundah, a village near Sydney, Australia, finding shape and form in a village called Baundpur near Kolkata. Pristine ivory met blush tones, nudes, inky blues and midnight hues in soft wool, silks and delicate sheers fortified by zipper detailing.
While they may have their Indian origins and Delhi basecamps in common, Arora, a PFW veteran of eight years, and Mishra in his second season, presented shows that were polar opposites in sentiment and sensibility — one verging on costumery, the other reflecting on craft.
But both couldn’t have been more far removed from the cliches that have come to be associated with Indian fashion internationally. Sure, Arora’s line played on kitsch and colour and Mishra’s brought his rural roots into the reckoning, but when it came to presenting collections that were universal in essence and global in their appeal, both were largely successful.
They stuck to their core strengths, yet drew the conversation away from the limited subcontinental context of just “vivid colours and sari prints”, as described by Suzy Menkes, Editor of International Vogue, in relation to Mishra’s showcase. We’re banking on the king of kitsch and the rising star to keep the Indian fashion flag aloft in the international arena for many years to come.