M.I.A.’s Red-Carpet Designer Manish Arora Talks Shop In New Dehli
Fashion is having an India moment. Slumdog Millionaire is poised for Oscar domination; Bangalore native Lakshmi Menon just renewed her gig as a Givenchy poster girl; and M.I.A. turned heads on the red carpet at last night’s Grammy awards in a decidedly non-maternity look from Indian designer Manish Arora. Based in New Delhi, Arora is poised to be the next big thing in ready-to-wear. A staple of the London scene, Arora showed his circus-inspired Spring ’09 collection in Paris last year and his trademark exuberance—starry capelets, embroidered elephants, glitter galore—felt just right in the City of Light. With high-low collaborations with Reebok and MAC under his belt (and more to come), Arora is making sure fashion’s Indian obsession is not the fleeting kind. Style.com caught up with the designer in between fittings at his New Delhi studio to talk about what’s on the “ramp,” his upcoming collaborations, and toning things down. Or not.
I’ve often heard from travelers that their first impression of India is one of organized chaos, with a dash of the madcap thrown in. Sounds like your collections. Is your work influenced by Indian culture?
India is one of my biggest inspirations. My designs represent India as far as textiles and the kind of workmanship you see in the garments. I love color, and it’s quite apparent in all my collections; a large part of that comes from being an Indian. Indian pop culture is a constant source of fascination for me and does make its way into most of my work.
Any Indian pop culture icons we should know about?
There are several, but one of my favorites is contemporary Indian artist Subodh Gupta.
Is the Indian creative community close-knit?
There is a certain camaraderie. It comes from the community still being a fairly new one. A lot of us started out at the same time and we are rooting for each other to do well internationally and have our work appreciated.
Let’s talk about your Spring 2009 collection in Paris. Your pieces can be highly conceptual, like the double-hoop skirt with a carousel painted on it. Do you consider wearability when you design your collection?
My collection for the ramp is not necessarily the most wearable, but yes, I do keep wearability in mind for my larger commercial collection. I think in order to be a true success commercial viability is very important.
Your designs can be incredibly detailed, with intricate embroidery and hand-sewn, artistic handiwork. Does being based in New Delhi have its advantages?
Absolutely. I don’t think it would be possible to do the kind of work I do anywhere but in India. I have some very talented people working with me, without whom this type of work would not be possible. India has a vast reserve of skill, which is a major asset in our industry.
You’ve also done commercial collaborations with Reebok and MAC. Do you have any other collaborations coming up?
Yes, coming up is a limited-edition range of watches that I’ve designed for Swatch that will be available this summer. I’m collaborating with Disney for my upcoming Fall 2009 collection, and I have also collaborated with Nivea for a special limited edition of Nivea Soft for Summer 2009.
A collaboration with Disney? Should we expect a cartoon backdrop or theatrics?
Theatrics you can always expect from my shows. Just exactly what we do with Disney you will have to wait and watch.
OK, we’re looking forward to March then. In designing your latest collection, did you take the global economic situation into consideration? Tone things down a bit?
My upcoming collection is literally set in the wild. I have attempted something very unique and I hope you like what you see in Paris come March. I really haven’t made any conscious effort to tone my collection down. I think fashion is hopeful and inspiring and should continue to be just that.