The history of fashion is the history of longing.
The history of fashion is the history of longing. Nobody is born stylish, everybody wants to be a little memorable and some would like to be somebody else or more like the self they see in the better part of their minds. It’s about one hundred years since fashion took its place alongside literature, painting and music as a way to look for the social essence of an era Indian designer Manish Arora’s quick-witted way of conversing touches upon all the aforementioned theories as we sit down to congratulate him on being conferred with France’s highest civilian honour — Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur.
Arora launched his label in 1997 in India, debuted at London Fashion Week in September 2005 and started showing at Paris Fashion Week in 2007. His celebrity clientele includes Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj. Ask him about his love affair with France and he quickly replies, “When I first went to France, I was hoping they would love me, but I never expected that they would embrace me.”
He carries on, “I never expected that they would give me so much love, honour and affection. It’s only been nine years since I have been showcasing there and yet to be conferred with such a huge award and felicitation, makes everything overwhelming. Only 26 people have gotten this award till date and I am probably the youngest and the only Indian (from the fashion industry) to receive it.”
After several years of achievement at home as well as internationally, he appears more like a grand film director than a designer. He has a director’s eye for detail, for story and allure, which makes him stand out as our premier idea of what a brilliant fashion designer can be. He gives credit for his eye for detailing to France: “France has taught me to take fashion seriously. It has taught me the difference between frivolous and niche, the principle of proportions, about getting the right length of a dress, the right depth of the neck, the right angle of the sleeve, the right placement for embroidery and beyond. France has helped me finesse my art and love for fashion.”
Also, for Arora, it was not in couture that he made his name but rather as an irreplaceable styliste, king of Indian ready-to-wear long before it was the mainstay of the big fashion houses. He cultivated his mind and made his own prestige, becoming a personality in Paris fashion where he worked towards exchanging an interesting fashion dialogue with carefully engineered Indian yet international clothes. He was a lightning rod of the 2000s sensibility, imbuing his designs with an essential sparkle and Pop Art accessibility. The ultimate cultural magpie, Arora grew in fame and has remained in orbit as a freelance personality with a strong conception of himself that exists beyond the labels he represents. “I am essentially Indian when it comes to designing. I take pride in taking my Indianness wherever I go because if I didn’t, I would be lost in the crowd. I’ll be very stupid to not take my country wherever I go. The West always looks towards the East and I’d love to be in the middle and grab the best of both worlds,” he affirms.
So, are there any Arora rules of reinvention “It’s no hidden secret: The more you evolve (as an individual), the more you create. Whether it’s coming up with ideas, outlook towards life, shaping up one’s personality .evolution should be constant.”
Adding further he shares that travelling has helped him a lot in this evolutionary process. “Travel is a big part of who I am and my passport is bigger than any book that I have read. Surprisingly, my happiest moments are when someone has put me on an aircraft. The longer the journey, the merrier I become,” he shares.
Lastly, does he think India can ever be like Paris, the fashion capital “India is evolving a lot but it really needs to grow more and faster — in terms of technology, technique, finishing, ideas and also most importantly embracing and applying the concept of ‘being original’. But to be honest, India cannot be the next Paris. It’s not our fault, we just started late and they are ahead in time.”