“White, pristine, unblemished
They say it is not a colour
I love white mists, clouds
Lingering on blue mountains.”
– John Mathew
That old white curtain that shielded us from the world reflects only the stories of a place that exists in memory. No longer does it hang on the broken door in that room where we rested in the afternoon and dreamed about places beyond where snow fell on the trees and coloured landscapes white. Those afternoons became filtered light, a diffused state of being with the gossamer delicacy of those white curtains against the world. I can even smell the season from memory – burnt wood and weak sun. September and October. I dreamed of blue mountains and white snow on trees.
Do you remember what they say about the sins of forgetting? They say sea will deceive you with mirages like the desert. White and unyielding and treacherous in its beauty. Those were the stories told in those rooms so we would never forget where we came from. They said don’t commit the sins of omission of memory. Or of dreams. How do you preserve the memory of home? By reconstructing the sights of childhood in red and white like a child would sort out a zig saw puzzle. In absentia, memory asserts itself in such interjections.
I didn’t forget. But I didn’t remember either. When I was shopping for curtains for my home, I stumbled upon the Daraz work on white bedcovers. I cut them up to make curtains. And I remembered the great steel trunk where my mother stored these white curtains and pillows with Daraz work, a craft that is dying now. I remembered the weavers who wore the blue and white chequered lungis. I remembered my grandmother who wore the Jamdani saris and cotton lungis. And that’s how I began to explore my intimate relationship with the things of my childhood – the pillow covers, the curtains, the table cloth.
I wanted to take the craft of Chikankari and Daraz and elevate them to luxury fashion. Because memory is a luxury. The way we hold on to smells, colours and textures. Fashion, to me, is an expression of what makes me. As a nostalgist, I want to bring back the 1980s of living in a small village in a house with red cemented floor and white curtains.
I call this collection ‘homemade’ as it was done by these women in Lucknow at their homes. There are only about 100 odd women who can do the Daraz. I wanted to bring back the times when we had saris and dupattas with Daraz work, which is the communion of two pieces of fabric cut into patterns. I have carved fish, leaves and flowers. Even clouds that I saw on the table cloths. I wanted to respect my intimate relationship with memory and venture beyond the trends and the forecasts.
When memory’s floodgates are opened, you are confronted with the precision of details preserved somewhere in your being. Like the dew drops on the lotus leaves. The house we lived in had a pond nearby. There were peacocks and flowers and trees. To match the idiosyncrasy of memory, I have mixed the whites with colourful pieces where I have embroidered the landscape of my village. Memory isn’t even chronological. I say it is an imagined canvas full of things you have hoarded from the past. Like the time when I was drawing the blue flowers with my daughter on a mountain. Those blue flowers of hydrangeas have found their way in this collection with hand-embroidered organza petals in shades of blue that were appliquéd onto light
fabrics and embellished with Swarovski crystals. The crystals were again used to recreate a semblance of dewdrops on organza. All these amorphous memories have been reconstructed so you know the endurance of crystal flowers and diaphanous petals and through them the inheritance of nostalgia.
The textile development for the collection has its own narrative that emerges from the collection’s theme. The fine cotton and Jamdani were woven in West Bengal. The Maheshwari textiles in this collection with their blue and white checks are an ode to memory of the village and also my growth as a designer working with weavers.
Gossamer, they say, is the very thin thread spiders produce to make webs. These are the threads of memory from which we have woven this collection.
Rahul Mishra, Winner of the International Woolmark Prize 2014, champions slow fashion with traditional Indian textiles. His eponymous label represents the finest handwork – hand woven, hand embroidered and hand crafted – Made in India, for the world. In a very short span Rahul has attracted the admiration of fashion’s most influential personalities; International Fashion Editor of Vogue, Suzy Menkes, an avid follower of his work, regards him a “national treasure” while the late Franca Sozzani has praised him as “successfully highlighting the best and most peculiar features of his homeland.” Amongst his many accolades, Rahul has been featured on the global influential list of
‘BoF 500’ for 4 years consecutively and more recently in GQ’s Power list of ‘50 Most Influential Indians’.
A master storyteller, Rahul Mishra weaves stories of people, places and process to bring forth newer interpretations and design interventions to craft techniques that serve the larger purpose of engaging, employing and empowering artisans. Rahul Mishra showcases his ready-to-wear line in the official calendar of Paris Fashion Week, and his annual couture collection at India Couture Week. The brand retails through some of the best stores globally and opened its first flagship store in New Delhi in July 2017, and its second store in Mumbai this September.