Suzy Menkes reports on designers proud to portray their national heritage in their clothes
It was the penultimate collection on the final day of the four-week marathon. But fashion can always come up with good karma. And Rahul Mishra’s collection touched me.
Here was what the designer called a “Ferryman’s Tale” as he recounted in streamlined but intensely decorated clothes a design journey to Japan and the inspiration of that country’s traditional artworks, then back to his native India through multiple villages wherecraftsmen worked on hand embellishment. Then the final clothes winged their way across the world to land in stores from Paris to New York.
When this year’s International Woolmark Prize was given to Rahul Mishra, I did not really take in the excellence of these clothes – in their construction and their spirit.
I understood the full story only after seeing a zippered jacket over a slim patterned skirt; a delicate organza top overlaid with semi-sheer disks; and a three-dimensional pattern aligned to stylised flowers.
This collection was far more interesting than its streamlined elegance suggested. Every piece was decorated in some way with embroidery, but because a lot was done in Merino wool, rather than all on silk organza, the clothes had a modern reality built into the design.
Because I was rushing off to Hermès, I had no time to go backstage and see the work up close. But Rahul caught up with me on the steps of the Palais de Tokyo.
“My idea is slow fashion – I want to slow down the process of making clothes to make them far more beautiful,” the designer said, talking about “making beautiful stories”. One of those hidden tales is that the designer is encouraging people doing artistic work in India’s city slums to return to their villages and work for him.
The striking thing about these designs was how sleek and modern they looked. There was not a sari drape in sight, but the same kind of innate Indian female elegance in the effect.
I have long thought that today’s greatest fashion luxury is found in things touched by human hands. In their sophistication and craftsmanship, these clothes touched my heart.