“It is not going to be a personal award for me; it reflects the wonderful contribution of the numerous hands, who have come forward to create the idea of Rahul Mishra. Those who have tailored and embroidered; multiple brains, which have worked together tirelessly on the whole idea,” says Rahul Mishra, in an exclusive interview on winning Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, from the French government.
“Collectively we have endured pressures, shared joy of success, analysed our failures. This award is a recognition of that collective feeling, dedicated to the craftsmanship of India and how our country in today’s time has nurtured design thinking,” he adds further.
The French ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, honoured Rahul Mishra at his residence by presenting the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Rahul was the first Indian designer to participate in the Paris Haute Couture Week in 2020, though this award was previously won by Ritu Kumar, Ritu Beri, Wendell Rodricks and Manish Arora.
Rahul’s craft-soaked offerings have been worn by Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Zendaya and Viola Davis.
The New Delhi-based designer has flagship stores in Mumbai and Delhi.
“This award is dedicated to the beautiful artisanal culture of India. How they inspire me as a person and people like us,” added Rahul.
The core philosophy of his brand is slow processes, which enable him to create sustainable employment for his craftsmen. Engagement with craftsmen and people who are skilled, motivate, empower, and engage with them is his goal.
“We can become a medium and help them fulfil their aspirations and dreams. Whatever we do is like community work, which is with a purpose of empowering people through participation,” he smiled.
Paris has been the most inspiring city in the world. Most artists in the world have made it their home. He explains that when you look at deep-rooted culture of the country, you can observe the respect the French have for artisanal processes.
“They are the ones who recognised the power of Chintz 200 years back. Many French labels value our craftsmanship, which is now also soft power in terms of fashion and heritage. Even if you look at French buildings, God lies in details which is a very Parisian idea. Thus, India as a country becomes an ally of France, due to its shared love for craftsmanship and the idea of haute couture which is a very French idea. The common appreciation for things done by hand, and poetic in nature is what binds us,” he explains.
The most respected fashion writer in the world, Suzy Menkes called Mishra “a national treasure”.
Suzy is a living encyclopaedia on style, and has seen many designers making it big in their early stages; she is a talent spotter.
“I’m more than humbled that this award is bestowed on me and my team. Every honour brings lots more pressure and responsibility to perform. One can’t take any beautiful review or statement for granted because it is a mirror of the hard work of the entire team. One must remain grounded, stay focussed on the overall growth,” says Mishra.
There has been much learning from showcasing at Paris Fashion Week for eight seasons, which also marks the steady evolution of the brand.
Biggest learning was not to get inside a box and not be defined by your style alone. PFW is all about artistic and ever-evolving expression, the designer reiterates.
“How as a creator, can [I] make something new, and with wonderful support from critics and my team; showcasing alongside most coveted names from fashion, learning from scale, thought processes, even minutest of details like selecting a venue, communication about different collection. Focussing on inclusivity and diversity has been a life altering experience for me,” admits Rahul.
The brand is also indulging in extensive retail expansion and one store is coming up every six months for a year now. They are also evaluating places abroad, in a few cities and Paris is at the centre of all this planning.
Craft is the soul behind what Mishra creates. The technique is the core of every collection. But as a creator, he strives to offer something new with existing crafts.
That incredible hunger for searching, exploring fresher ways of presenting modern contemporary versions using traditional crafts is exciting for him.
“Modernity can’t happen without a strong foundation, as we celebrate beauty and the essence of belonging through clothes,” he said.
Paris is known for the most historic brands and every designer has an admiration for them. Rahul says it is tough to select one and call it his favourite.
“When you look at big brands, the way they add theatrics, different creative directors bring in innovative ideas, and constantly evolve is exemplary. Chanel, Dior, Saint Laurent are all equally amazing, because they brought a lot of beauty and inspiration from India. And, of course, Hermes. No one can forget how they do things,” he confesses.
Rahul shares a special bond with France; it is like his “second home”.
It is a place that has given him global recognition, his “karam bhoomi”.
“It is a beautiful melting pot of creativity. I am sure whatever we are doing, it is inspiring other creators and designers from India and globally too, to be in France. Paris is a magical place. For us to showcase our creation to the world, it is the fashion capital and most important for the brand Rahul Mishra,” he concludes.