“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.” — Alice Walker
The night is darkest right before dawn, goes the popular saying. And if Rahul Mishra’s Couture Spring 2021 collection – presented in the form of a digi-film on the website of the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode on the occasion of Haute Couture Week a few days ago – is anything to go by, what an awakening it is. Filmed on the white sand-clad, desolate desertscape of the Kishangarh marble dumpyard a few hours from Jaipur, the film, that starts with a drone shot over this futuristic, white landscape, where nothing grows, quickly zooms onto a fallen tree, where multicoloured (crochet) mushrooms, sprout, lichen-like, as if to symbolize a rebirth, a new beginning, where nature, in her own way, always finds her way through the most trying and most extreme circumstances, to create life, where nothing exists.Look 15 from Rahul Mishra's Couture Spring 2021 collection at Haute Couture Week
If the New Delhi-based Rahul Mishra’s last collection evoked the Butterfly and paid homage to his artisans, this collection is about the beauty of nature taking over from our collective sense of loss as a planet. Heavily inspired by Sir David Attenborough’s Netflix film, A Life on our Planet, Rahul Mishra looks at how even in the ruins of Chernobyl (where the nuclear accident eradicated all life forms there), nature took over faster than anyone expected.Look 20 from Rahul Mishra's Couture Spring 2021 collection at Haute Couture Week
From the crocheted, multicoloured ‘mushrooms’ on the tree, to giant mushrooms literally growing out, and forming a dress, Rahul Mishra has dipped into his trademark tactile, 3D embroidery, painstakingly created by his artisans in his atelier (no presentation by him is complete without some sort of an homage to the people behind his creations, hence the close-up shots of delicate embroidery being hand-sewn on the fabric in the film).
Sometimes artist, and other times botanist, Rahul Mishra deconstructs the fungus, the life-giving mushrooms, and how they are known to grown literally overnight, seen at dawn, and disappear equally mysteriously, but not before transferring their life-giving power to the soil, which in turn transmits their energy and nutrients to insects who then pollinate the flower. And so the cycle continues, very much like the way he designed his collection. He explains (in an IGTV talk) how the creative process was very much an exercise of form and nature. “Usually garment-making is linear,” he says, “With the sketch, pattern-making, embroidery and tailoring. In this case, it was quite circular. We stitched the garment first, so that the mushroom can stand almost like a veritable mushroom, with no ruffling.”Look 7 from Rahul Mishra's Couture Spring 2021 collection at Haute Couture Week
And just like the mushrooms that are seen to grow on the fallen tree, his models too, are like nature that allows these mushrooms to grown on them. The models wear exotic mushrooms separately hand tacked over the glimmering tree-bark-texture hand embroidered on tulle and silk organza that is further embellished with wildflowers. As the botanist, Nicholas P. Money, says: “Mushrooms are masterpieces of natural engineering, the most wondrous inventions in evolutionary history.” Rahul says that each of the mushroom forms is individually engineered through a unique pattern making process assisted by novel hand embroidery techniques, in order to achieve a realistic fall and movement.Look 13 from Rahul Mishra's Couture Spring 2021 collection at Haute Couture Week
Shape-shifting silhouettes constructed with the meticulous placement of these forms replicate life itself. Hands lay the quintessential craft of hand embroidery along with the design intervention and contemporary application of Rahul’s core values of slow, ethical and sustainable couture. The clothes are breathtaking and modern – coatdresses, gowns, mini-dresses, a babydoll. “Today, times have changed,” says Rahul. “Women are powerful. Couture needs to free them.” This simplicity is what’s needed for a modern lifestyle, according to Rahul.
The garments ask to the viewer, a simple question – do we wish to continue witnessing the marvels of nature present to us on this planet? To get the answer, we may be required to dig within ourselves, for wisdom, and realize the change.Look 3 from Rahul Mishra's Couture Spring 2021 collection at Haute Couture Week
In its own incomprehensible ways, nature knows how to sustain herself. When the last tree is felled, life will sprout from the cracks and blanket what is left behind. The starry night will conspire with crystal dewdrops and concoct an array of bright-hued mushrooms. Rings of magic will emerge.
“I wanted to show that this place (the marble dumpyard) was lifeless, with a fallen tree – and now mushrooms are growing, a new life is beginning,” says Rahul. “Sir David Attenborough’s prophecy comes to mind – that humans can only save the future, not the planet.” This comes from the realization during the lockdown that humans may not have to save the planet, but themselves. The planet would survive, and the human species may succumb to their weakness.Look 21 from Rahul Mishra's Couture Spring 2021 collection at Haute Couture Week
A Film by Storyloom Films
Film Direction by Keya Vaswani & Nidhi Karmath
Photography by Hormis Antony Tharakan & Taha Ahmad
Styling by Priyanka Yadav
Shoes by Rahul Mishra X OCEEDEE Shoes
Location: Kishangarh Marble Dumpyard, Rajasthan, India
Models: Laura Gavrilenko, Mansi, Nitin Baranwal
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