In Manish Arora’s world, fashion is grand. It is a performance consumed by those who have a flair for drama.
To catch hold of Manish Arora is an incredibly difficult task. He is constantly on the move. One day, he is in the bylanes of Delhi taking in the sights and sounds and the next, he is on a flight to Paris to tend to his store. His shows, in India and abroad, take up most of his time, and yet he finds time (and energy) to collaborate with brands from across genres – shoes, makeup, jewellery, and eyewear.
The designer and his whimsical label are known as much for their aesthetic as they are for their theatricality. This year, for Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2017, Manish found a perfect partner in boisterous and cheeky actor Ranveer Singh. The Cosmic Love collection inspired by tribes of Africa and the cosmos. Aztec prints, geometric patchwork, embroidery, velvet appliqués and embellishments in gold and green were seen on silk crêpe drawstring dresses, cropped denim jackets, tunics and velvet gowns. As always, colours took centerstage – mustard, tangerine, midnight blue, violet, fuchsia and royal blue – something that has been a staple of a Manish Arora creation. His eponymous label, launched in 1997, has never been devoid of drama. Manish Arora, a designer, a maverick, a modernist, literally wears his passion for colour on his sleeve.
The designer, who made his international debut in 2005 at the London Fashion Week, is now a regular at the Paris Fashion Week. In the midst of shows and collaborations, he managed to find time to exhibit his work at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and move onto retail with over 70 stores across the world. A member of Chambre Syndicale du Prêt à Porter des Couturiers since 2009, he was also at the helm of Paco Rabanne in 2011. We caught up with the designer in between his many travels, shows and collaborations.
What’s keeping you busy these days?
I have just come back from Srinagar after exploring some textiles. In between, I was working on my collection for Lakmé Fashion Week. I am also working on my next collection that I will showcase at Paris Fashion Week on September 28.
Tell us about the Mela that you recently designed for Swarovski Crystals Worlds in Austria?
It was my vision of India that I carry with me on my travels. It was a representation of contemporary India. For its inaugural Summer Festival held between July 1 and August 31, we transformed Swarovski Crystal Worlds into a colourful Indian fair. I worked closely with the Cultural Director Carla Rumler to co-curate and design the festival that hosted artists and designers from across the globe. We resurrected the spirit of India by filling up the park with art installations.
How would you define your design sensibility?
It is all about happiness and joy.
Have you ever thought of deviating from the aesthetics that you are so loved for?
Well, I have deviated a couple of times, if you are talking about colours. Having said that I am pretty happy in the space that I have created with my designs.
When did this passion for colour and vibrance find its way into your life?
I have always been in love with colours. Coming from a country that’s so colourful, how can I miss it? It has become my USP globally. I feel that this unique identity has helped me stand out.
Were you inspired by someone’s sense of style while growing up?
I looked up to pop stars Madonna and George Michael. Their individual styles, their aura was mesmerising.
Did the world of fashion always fascinate you?
I could have been a filmmaker or an artiste, but I landed up in a fashion school and became consumed by the idea of creating beautiful clothes. I would like to explore filmmaking and the art world at some point for sure.
Your flagship store in Paris has such an energy about it.
Yes. All kinds of people walk into our store, but I have always had a lot of shoppers from China, they really do love my designs.
Over the years, you have had some of the most interesting collaborations. Is it because you have an amicable personality or because of your signature style or both?
I think it’s more because of my work that can be swiftly adapted to different things from different genres.
What piques your interest when you are travelling? Does it find its way into your designs?
All my travels and experiences are directly reflected in my collections.
How would you describe the difference between shows in India and abroad?
There are a lot of differences; it is mostly in terms of planning, the methodology and approach to a show. In Paris, for example, we work for a good five days if need be to find the right girl for the right garment. In India, we finish our fittings in three hours and we work with the models we are allotted. These things, at the end of the day, make a lot of difference. I am not trying to compare India with France because we are still very young and Paris is the fashion capital of the world. But we are getting more professional at a steady pace. Showcasing at both places give me equal pleasure.
What would you choose between, a design breakthrough or a standing ovation at a show?
I think they are part of the same process. A design breakthrough might get you a standing ovation at a show.
I am off to Burning Man in Nevada. This is all I can think of right now.