How Rahul Mishra is revolutionizing the label of “Made in India”

This profile was written as a part of a graded assignment for a Fashion Journalism course conducted by Ms. Sathya Saran.

“Recall the face of the poorest you have ever seen – and ask yourself if your contemplating will be of any use to them.” For Rahul Mishra, these famous words by Mahatma Gandhi have become his guiding light. Born in a small village in the Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, Mishra’s name entered the hall of fame alongside the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent when he won the prestigious International Woolmark Prize at the Milan Fashion Week with his collection The Lotus Effect.

“I have been following Issey Miyake who takes Japanese textiles and turns them into a very global idea. And that is what I have tried to do – taking a strong Indian influence and creating a global idea”, says Mishra when asked about the influences behind his award-winning collection. Mishra made championing local crafts his mission right from his 2006 debut collection at the Lakme Fashion Week which incorporated white cotton Kerala textiles and mundus. He stated that in his collection, The Lotus Effect, he wanted to use wool to make non-winter garments that would provide a livelihood to Indian artisans. “I knew I had to do something that no one had done before. And so I made wool into a summer fabric, something that can be worn even in 50 degrees.”

“It (the collection) was on the hexagon shape, which is the genesis of all shapes, including the lotus, and I used this idea in my garments.”, continued Mishra. “It was heavily influenced by M. C. Escher and his monochromatic work.” Traces of his love for experimentation can also be found in this collection, as the NID graduate combined Chanderi with wool. When asked about this curious fusion, Mishra commented, “Fashion is a cruel thing. It is the biggest enemy of craft. But on the other hand, fashion helps you be new every season. I feel there must be some sort of synergy between the old and new.”

Rahul Mishra’s deftness with craft and his successful attempts at globalising Indian handicrafts were best captured by Suzy Menkes when she said, “The Indian designer infuses handwork with such lightness and subtlety that every outfit requires human intervention – but whispers that skill rather than shouts it.”