What brings together hands and technology? What links past and future creations? Intent. And this is the fourth dimension at the heart of Rahul Mishra's Spring 2016 collection, the invisible cement that transmutes an assembly of parts into an integral, meaningful creation. Despite arousing a desire to analyze his creations as a mathematical discourse of patternwork, the Indian designer's work is firmly rooted in poetic narration, one where the hand of the artisan is essential in creating the cohesive picture that the Indian designer intended. Call this 3D embroidery, but it would be doing a disservice to the wonder that emerges from a single thread wielded to the fullest extent of the imagination.
Although each distinct element is individually crafted — Mishra quipped that none of the craftsmen in his employ had been told of the final design — the sense of unity that comes off the finished pieces is supreme. Organza plays with leatherette (a quirky yet wholly comprehensible choice given the designer's roots), embroidery climbs on wool, thread blossoms into an intricate pattern. On the runway he offered up covetable jackets, a sultry playsuit, and billowing backs embroidered with geometric designs that sometimes jumped off a plane to become a crested line along the shoulder. At the inception of each and every one of these pieces is a desire to harness what hands can do. That Mishra creates charming designs that capture and hold the attention is a given, considering his still recent Woolmark win. But what truly sets him apart is his adherence to handicrafts, their preservation and continued usage.
Take this as the founding axiom of a mindful, responsible way of doing business, in fashion and, hopefully, elsewhere. Beyond the covetable designs seen on his runway, the choice of handicrafts goes deeper than a fabrication choice, and is a far-cry from the preservation of first-world craftsmanship of Chanel's Métiers d'Art. Woven into each piece is a quest for a sustainable future, one where an entire industry is revitalized, from Mishra himself right down to the families of artisans in rural India where his designs are manufactured. At a time where everything is available 24/7 at the click of a finger yet the impoverished pay the harshest tribute to our desire to consume goods, and fashion in particular, it is perhaps harder to digest the fact that sustainability can only be truly achieved by handing back a livelihood to remote areas, rather than letting them perish, their workforce having departed to urban centers. This is perhaps the heaviest thread that underlines the young Indian designer's aesthetic: a necessity for long-term change in how things are made. Not through labels, hashtags or awareness-raising but by taking things into one's own hands, and doing.