Having won this year’s International Woolmark Prize and launched a new line at Harvey Nichols earlier this month, designer Rahul Mishra is a force to be reckoned with. His mission is to encourage slow ethical fashion that celebrates imperfection, and to achieve a form of fashion democracy. The Mumbai-based designer is a stickler for hand-made fashion, and currently works with over 500 families who have participated in the creation of his award-winning sustainable collection. Ecouterre had the pleasure of asking Mishra about how he hopes this philosophy will change the fashion industry and how he hopes to see designers around him follow suit. Read on for the full interview and for a look at Mishra’s stunning new collection.
How did wool become your fiber of choice?
Woolmark Prize made me re-look at the fiber. Although I had been working with wool fibre for quite some time, but during IWP the research took my knowledge to a newer level. I am always in lookout for newer stories during my design process, I love looking at things in new perspectives to explore new methods and techniques, try to seek new meanings in old tales.
During the process, I learnt that merino wool is a natural, biodegradable, and renewable fiber, making it a perfect choice for clothing with its minimalistic impact to the environment.
I was very fascinated by wool. Not just because it is an eco-friendly fiber and textile, but because it needs to traverse this divide between the rural and urban.
It seamlessly manages to connect natural to manmade; it shows a path, which is socialist, as well as capitalist. And for IWP my project was based on idea of making wool a spring-summer fiber.
For that we have worked on various techniques like weaving with finest wool yarn, heat setting the wool jersey by involving traditional technique of bandhini [a form of tie-dye] and finally employing the fineness of merino yarn in detailed hand-embroidery.
What does slow fashion mean to you?
I come from a country where our greatest asset is the skill set of handmade. And, that which are centuries old.
India not only has the best crafts in the world but it also has a huge workforce that’s born into it. Our brand subconsciously endorses the philosophy of using our riches and weaving them into a more global and modern context.
Slow fashion means in the idea how we can slow down the process of making a garment so that we can employ multiple hands. When you look at India, which is like a country of 1 billion, there are millions of talented hands that need work. Craftsmanship involved with cutting-edge fashion is a great formula for maximum participation across villages. This has been one of the greatest philosophy behind our brands.
I think in this century we need to look at fashion in completely new perspective, because fashion can lead the society to new and better world. In this century the idea of fashion needs to be redefined, it should be created not just for consumption, but it should also be focused on participation.
There should be an active participation: engagement correlating with environment, which should create employment and lead to an overall empowerment. We need new minds to lead us to that goal.
How, where, and by whom are the garments produced?
We work with crafts people from all over the country. From weaving villages to embroidery districts we employ multiple clusters of craftsmen for each collection depending upon where the collection emerges.
For instance, for the Woolmark collection, we produced the hand-loomed fabric at a Village called Chanderi in Central India, and the hand-embroideries were done in eastern part of India. The clothes were tailored at our studio-factory located at Delhi.
Who or what inspires your creations?
Today, we live in an era of great conflicts, natural versus man made, rural vs. urban, socialism vs. capitalism, etc. This is the parallel coexistence that is our world today. This is reality. This collection seeks to portray the journey of the human race and the process of metamorphosis our planet has undergone in the last century.
Organic natural forms have gone through a gradual transformation into manmade structures. To create this collection and portray the metamorphosis, M.C. Escher was the perfect inspiration.
I have always been a big fan of his work. I have admired his great sense geometry and continuous flow of forms. Probably, my background in science and mathematics is also the reason behind my fascination with Escher’s style of work.
This collection also depicts the Buddhist belief: “It is the lotus found at the heart of the garbhadhatu mandala being the womb or embryo of the world.” Which means that the eight-petal lotus is the origin of metamorphosis on the planet. That is why the graphic originates from eight-petal lotus to morph in to complex structures.
What’s next for Rahul Mishra?
We are heading in a great direction, albeit a little fast! We are continuing our journey to Paris Fashion Week.
The Woolmark capsule collection is in stores now globally and we are getting reports of it flying of the racks, which is highly encouraging.
Our ultimate dream is to establish our brand on a global level in field of sustainable luxury, and IWP has been a great fillip.
The prize has redefined my career forever; it has created huge opportunity for our brand, as well as for our support system in terms of the hand-loom and handcraft traditions of my country.
Professionally, it gives me a great chance and reason to establish my brand internationally. All this makes us even more responsible to make the next stride in the field of international fashion.
This year is going to be very critical for us. It’s a natural progression being in Paris. We are very honored, very proud of the fact that we will be able to represent handmade in India, a complete collection which will be handmade in the villages of India that will take centre stage on the runways of fashion’s mecca.