Wearing expensive clothes is not fashion: Manish Arora

Not only does Manish Arora not need an introduction in India, even abroad he is known for his quirky, kitschy takes on western and Indian design sensibilities. He is probably the only designer who shows regularly at Paris Fahsion Week, but thinks Indian fashion is the most unique. Though he is not participating at the Wills India Fashion Week this time, he is upbeat about a new international collaboration in November. He shares his secrets with Shashank Chouhan of Spicezee.com.


You showcased at the Lakme Fashion Week last month for the first time and did not participate at any FDCI events this year…

I had not done a show in Mumbai for a very long time. IMG approached me to do a show with Philips for Lakme Fashion Week this season. Philips is a very interesting brand to collaborate with and that is why I was intrigued to do this. I am currently a part of the FDCI and active as a member. As I am presently showing in Paris, it is not possible to show my current collections here. However, I do have a stand for my collections at each WIFW season.

Where is the fashion industry in India headed with so many Weeks being organised now?

It is great to see our industry growing. The more the merrier! But I still believe that there should be a centerfold i.e. one main fashion week to represent the entire Indian fashion industry.

Are you more focused now on the western market than the Indian?

I have been showcasing my prêt collection at Paris fashion week each season since 2008. It is a big investment for a company like mine to show each season on the catwalks at Paris. We have to be very focused on the buyers/stores we retail at and what works for the international market. My Spring/Summer ’11 range was displayed in Paris on September 30th.

At the same time, India is a very important market for me. We are making new collections each season for India, with Indian ethnic wear as well as western wear. So if anybody visits the stores in Delhi and Mumbai and other multi brand stores across India, you are able to see the new season collections.

Though you are not at the FDCI Autumn/Winter (A/W) fashion week, what does your collection comprise?

My AW line is inspired by the Art Deco era, especially Metropolis which was a cult film from that time. The shapes are inspired by the 20s and 30s. I’ve emphasised on dropped waists, fitted shapes, with detailed shoulders and futuristic structure. Dresses below the knee, tulip shaped skirts, oversized jackets and jodhpurs are a strong part of the collection. The color palette includes shades of green, purple, black, with gold and neon colours – something on the lines of stained glass. Mechanical watch parts and hand woven lace are some of the innovative embellishments used. I’ve used industrial and abstract deco motifs from the 20s and translated them into prints and my trademark – embroideries featuring appliqué, intricate threadwork and sequin hand embellishment.

Which international project/collaboration is keeping you occupied at the moment?

I have collaborated with several brands throughout my career. I guess it’s my individual approach to design that creates a real sense of collaboration with these brands that works really well for both of us. You will soon be seeing a very big collaboration that will be launched in November worldwide.

Even though your designs are so Indian, they are widely appreciated and accepted internationally. How do you think that happens?

I use traditional Indian techniques and present them to my clients in a contemporary way. I guess it helps build a connection between Indian sensibilities and the international market

You are often called the John Galliano of India. Does he inspire you?

I would not like to be put at par with any other designer, as we are all different individuals coming from different backgrounds. We each have own unique sensibilities and approach towards design. Yes, John Galliano does incorporate a lot of Indian elements in his designs but we both have our own interpretations which are translated into collections that are far from similar to each other. I hope to be tagged as ‘Manish Arora of India’ rather than being compared to anyone else.

What achievement thrills you the most? Katy Perry donning your outfit at MTV Awards or re-doing a small barber’s shop in Rajasthan that you did on TV?

I really can’t pick one. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a really wide range of experiences each hold a very special place for me in my heart.

Would you agree that fashion still remains an elite-class affair in India. Does that bother or concern you?

I strongly disagree. I think Indian people have the most uncanny sense of style. If you look at the general street style, you will see young shop boys in bling shirts in bright colours, slick hairdos and funky accessories. Banjara women have the most amazing colour and print combinations in their outfits…I can go on and on. I don’t think having spending power to buy expensive clothes makes you fashionable. Fashion is all about wearing your personality on your sleeve with confidence – which according to me all strata of Indians do.