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Indian designer evokes mysteries of the ‘Cosmos’ in Paris

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Indian fashion designer Rahul Mishra's new collection, "Cosmos", evokes the boundless mysteries of life, told through his trademark embroidered flourishes of animal contours and luminous details./AFP
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Jan 24, 2023 - 07:55 AM

NOIDA, INDIA — For a man with seemingly infinite creative ambitions, it is fitting that Indian designer Rahul Mishra’s latest Paris haute couture collection attempts to encapsulate the entire universe.

Monday’s Fashion Week debut of “Cosmos” became the latest showcase for one of Asia’s leading stylists, whose works have been modelled by Michelle Yeoh, Viola Davis and other top film stars.

Mishra invited AFP to tour his frenetic workshop on the urban fringes of New Delhi several times over the collection’s production, from its initial sketchbook concepts to his last-minute agonies over sudden revisions.

His long and laborious journey reflects a desire to evoke the boundless mysteries of life, told through his trademark embroidered flourishes of animal contours and luminous details.

“This is actually the true cosmos in its ultimate manifestation,” Mishra, 43, told AFP this month while proudly unveiling one of the more than two dozen gowns he was about to send to Paris.

“It justifies the name of the collection.”

The gown’s flowing pleated silhouette is alive with intricately embroidered depictions of the animal kingdom, where schools of fish rub shoulders with the night sky’s constellations.

Mishra has spent months engrossed in every microscopic detail of the piece, but even in the frenzied final week before its Paris debut, he was compelled to make a major conceptual change.

“It looks dramatic, it takes too much attention,” he says as he agonises over a bold decision to pin two giant golden fish ornaments to the gown’s bust, wondering if it upsets the delicate harmony he has cultivated.

Mishra often defers to the expertise of his team and solicits their opinion but they share his taste for the flamboyant and give a resounding vote of approval to the new look.

‘It has to be spectacular’ 

“The more we try to know about cosmos, the less we know; the more we try to know about ourselves, the more remains to discover — this is the true meaning of cosmos,” Mishra said of his artistic vision.

The theme is well-suited to a designer whose creations fuse together as many materials, textures and patterns as the laws of physics allow.

“We work like an art studio that tries to mix mediums, to assemble ideas, to create a new expression that is not necessarily just fashion,” he said.

“Our dresses are full of life — they are growing, expanding, they are reaching for something in an ever-expanding universe.”

The collection’s more extravagant pieces reflect Mishra’s preoccupation with the natural world and include a sequined gown with translucent veils, modelled on the pulsing movements of a jellyfish.

Other eye-catching works feature elegant embroidery of pink-tinged leaves, golden ladybird brooches, or frilly bustiers with blue sequins and marine life motifs to elicit the ocean’s depths.

Mishra’s intention to portray a fantasy journey to “something that doesn’t exist” have this time led him out of his traditional obsessions and into the urban environment.

On an ankle-length coat, uncharacteristically monochrome against the designer’s usual colour bursts, skyscrapers float upside down on a ruffled hem against speckled silver stars to channel the magic of cities at night.

Flamboyant even by the standards of the Parisian runway, Mishra abhors any suggestion of aesthetic restraint.

“It has to be spectacular, otherwise why would you create something?” he said. “There are already so many beautiful clothes in the world.”

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