by Meher Castelino
It was with great joy that I read about Rahul Mishra winning the International Woolmark Prize 2014 in Milan this February. Much has been written about Rahul’s wonderful collection by the media all over the world, and he has received well-deserved praise from his peers as well as admirers.
Perhaps, not many are aware that this prize is the ultimate for Rahul, the Pride of National Institute of Design (NID) and who was born to win. He started early by claiming the “Best Student Award” in 2005 at the NID.
With creativity of such high order it was but natural that Rahul’s work would win accolades and awards. One of the first awards that came Rahul’s way was the National Award for “Best Student Designer of the Year 2005,”organised by the Clothing Manufacturers’ Association of India.
In 2006 when Narendra Kumar Ahmed and I, along with others judged the CMAI-Indo Italian Chamber Student Design Contest, the six amazing sketches featuring reversible dresses in Kerala cotton saris by Rahul Mishra, a student of NID Ahmedabad, were the ones that caught our attention out of the hundreds of entries by students from all over India. We selected him for the finals and he won the one-year Marangoni Instituti Scholarship thus becoming the first non-European to win this award. The concept of the collection was to help the weavers as well as create a collection for tourists who can carry a wardrobe of six garments by packing just three.
In 2006 when he was selected for the Gen Next category in 2006 for the Autumn/Winter 2006/2007 season, he instantly caught the eye of critics with pioneering ace designer, Wendell Rodricks giving him a standing ovation for his reversible Kerala cotton collection.
Rahul’s first lucky break came when his company The Apple Tree was spotted by The Creative Garments Group one of the biggest export house headed by Rahul Mehta, President, Clothing Manufacturers Association of India. This understanding worked beautifully and soon Rahul’s collections were making waves at fashion weeks and in stores around the world.
In 2008 the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India selected Rahul to compete in the 24th International Designer of the Year Contest organised by the International Apparel Federation in Maastricht Netherlands.
In 2008 I once again judged Rahul’s three creations along with Angela Rumsey, Business Editor, WGSN and Liesbeth in’t Hout, Dean, AMFI Amsterdam Fashion Institute for this contest for designers from ten countries in Maastricht, Netherlands. Rahul was the first Indian to win the “Most Commercially Viable Collection” for his three reversible dresses created with Benaras Brocade and Kerala handloom cotton to match the contest theme “Seizing the Day Crossing into the Night.”
Obviously since Rahul was the Indian entry I had to restrict my comments on his collection, but my two international colleagues were totally besotted by his work and unanimously gave him the award. The reversible dresses were so cleverly created that the day wear and evening outfits which were finished impeccably merged into one with totally different detailing and construction as well as fabrics. Also crowned the reversible King of Fashion in India, Rahul’s offering of such garments during the fashion recession in 2009 won him accolades for the concept of offering a two-in-one garment to the value conscious buyer.
Every collection by Rahul starting from PLEATS (2007) which gave a new dimension to pleating and BANDHANI featured engineered Bandhani motifs which eliminated darts and side seams. SEAMLESS (S/S 2008) was innovative construction without seams. CHESS (A/W 2008), MAHESHWARI (S/S 2009), REVERSING THE RECESSION (A/W 2009/10) was just right when Rahul offered two-in-one garments by reversing them thus making them value for money buys for women. THREADS OF FREEDOM (S/S 2010), THE BUTTERLY EFFECT (A/W 2010-11), A LOT LIKE US (S/S 2011), LINEAGE (A/W 2011-12), JUST LIKE A DREAM (S/S 2012) and SUNEHRI (W/F 2013) was his first bridal collection made from handloom fabrics featuring traditional floral motifs. All the collections have been best sellers for him not only in India but abroad.
Hailed by French fashion doyen, Didier Grumbach as the “the talent to watch out for” and by Albert Morris of BROWNS (London) who touted him as a future of Design for India; Rahul was the first Indian designer to be featured on prestigious style.com. The media described him as the ‘the next big thing’ and the fashionistas recognized him as one of the “most creative brains’ in fashion industry today.
Rahul was also selected as one of the “7 Gems of Indian Fashion” by Couture Asia and a documentary by the National Geographic Channel featured him and his experiments with Indian textiles.
Rahul once said, “Good design has no language boundaries it has to be universal and that have been my aim always.”
From the first moment I knew Rahul Mishra will be an international name very soon and I am thrilled he has proved me right. Rahul is sure to add many awards to his list and make India very proud as he spreads the glory of our weavers and craftsmen.