I remember flipping through the pages of Cosmopolitan at 16 and lusting over fluoro kitsch corsets by an Indian designer that I was yet to discover. Those corsets were more than a piece of clothing that I wished to own, they were a doorway to a new playground of creation. The designer in question was none other than Manish Arora. At the time, he was pushing new boundaries in Indian fashion, creating clothes – No! Fantasies! – one could never fathom and opening infinite possibilities for the next generation of designers. Manish is the only Indian designer to have consecutively shown each season at Paris Fashion Week for the past 7 years. He has done everything, from creating clothes, footwear and jewellery to designing apartments, coffee machines and motorbikes! With so many feathers in his cap, it’s difficult to lock in on 10 of his biggest career moments. After much editing and re-editing, here’s a list of 10 Ultimate Fashion Statements by Manish Arora.
It’s Manish’s most obvious fashion statement, however, it’s one that cannot go unmentioned. Following an invitation by Didier Grumbach, Manish Arora showed his Spring Summer 2008 collection at Paris Fashion Week in October 2007. He served India up on a bright pink plate of desi pop art in luminous colours, with bejeweled Amar Chitra Katha graphics and Bharatnatayam mudras. The unforgettable ‘circle print’ would go on to be his statement for years to come.
Did You Know? The finale garment was Manish’s iconic butterfly dress, which took over 3 months to complete. The dress has a 4 meter trail and is completely covered in butterflies. Each butterfly was hand made, embroidered with Swarovski crystals and sewn individually onto the garment.
In 2008, Manish, along with Discovery Travel & Living took us for a ride around India and gave us a peek into his eclectic life on the TV show, “Adventures of the Ladies Tailor”. In the six part series, he travelled around the country meeting local inspirations and hanging out with his friends. Besides design and fashion, we saw him in a different avatar where he did things like redecorating a barbershop in Jodhpur, riding a camel in the desert and learning to make chillums in Goa. Quoting one of his interviews, “The audience for my series is advised to wear Sunscreen – Factor 50. My styles in the programme are a wild mix of pop art, high kitsch and psychedelic futurism.”
Did You Know? Manish has a tattoo on his forearm of Ladies Tailor and that the Ambassador is Manish’s ride in everyday life – not the crazy colourful version though.
Manish won the ASVOFF Grand Prix, Best Sound and Best Emerging Talent Prize for his first film “Holi Holy” at the the 6th edition of the ASVOFF international fashion film festival. He collaborated with Bharat Sikka and Bishi Bhattacharya to present a strong visual narration of the widows of Benaras who played Holi for the first time. The film leaves you humbled and breathless.
Did You Know? Manish has always said that if he was not making clothes, he would be making films. He had always aspired to direct a film one day. What a perfect response to his first!
For his second show in Paris, Manish ganged up with 3 artists to create a collection titled “Warrior”. Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Goofy featured on battle armour shapes, followed by models in shift dresses with psychedelic prints by Japan’s Keiichi Tanaami walking against a background installation by India’s very own Subodh Gupta. Once again Manish wowed the fashion world with his brilliant ability to make magic out of collaborations.
Did you know? Remember those toy kitchen sets you played with as a kid? Some pieces in the collection were actually embroidered with the miniature toy utensils to replicate Subodh Gupta’s signature.
Even though Manish’s role as artistic director of Paco Rabanne lasted only two seasons, he managed to give the brand exactly what it needed for its revival. Lady Gaga sported not one but five looks from his first collection for the brand in the same night!!
Did you know? The outlandish circular pieces in the collection are made completely out of pleated paper.
Manish was inspired by Brooklyn based graffiti artist Judith Supine for Fall 2012. Parisian graffiti artists in black hoods, Rude 3HC, Vizion and Broke spray painted the backdrop as models glided down the runway while the entire front row got high off the paint fumes. The entire show culminated with a freshly painted “Life is Beautiful” and slightly tipsy audience.
Did you know? The entry at Manish’s Parisian apartment has also been painted by Rude 3HC.
After dabbling with a wide plate of inspirations from jungles to The Beatles, Manish decided to come back to his roots for his Spring 2013 collection. Inspired by India’s royal treasury and their affinity for the wild, Manish created an intricate and bejeweled collection of designs based on Indian costume. The highlight of this collection was his collaboration with Amrapali, which resulted in a line of exquisitely unique jewellery. The line was a sensation, featuring in every magazine spread and decorating almost all fashionistas.
Did you know? The clothes in the collection are directly derived from Rajasthani tribal costume. Manish began designing the line with original pieces sourced from tribal ladies.
Manish is a man who understands well that the world’s becoming a smaller place and the best way to reach out it to not restrict yourself to your job profile and have some fun while you’re at it. Reebok, Swarovski, Swatch, MAC, Good Earth, Pommery.. the list is endless!! Thankfully the man knows how to make the most out of collaboration and continues to splash Arora lovin’ across the globe.
Did you know? Manish’s collaboration with Reebok resulted in a second label called Fish Fry. When asked, Manish says he has no particular reason for picking the name. He just like the term fish fry because its grammatically incorrect. He no longer retails under Fish Fry.
While the key to making money as a designer in India is making bridal wear, it took years into his career before Manish himself decided to cater to the wedding market. In 2012 he entered into a JV with Biba to create a new label for India aptly named Indian by Manish Arora. His first collection under the label showcased at PCJ Couture Week last year was an amuse-bouche much needed after the repetitive and ‘safe’ bridal wear. Manish broke the rules, switched up the Indian wardrobe and presented ideas not seen on Indian clothes before.
Did you know? Before Indian by Manish Arora, Manish only created custom bridal wear for his close friends, people who understood his aesthetic and would not force him to conform.
Manish has come a long way from his days of ‘kitsch’ (he hates to be called this). His looks have cleaned up, clothes have grown more wearable, his overall style has matured – However, he is still true to himself and his designs are still delivered with the same honesty they had in the beginning of his career. With Manish you never know what to expect but one thing he guarantees.. Each collection will come with a little sugar and spice and everything nice!
Did you know? Manish refuses to use celebrity showstoppers in his shows. He believes that his clothes can speak for themselves without needing the extra PR leverage! To that I will raise an Amen!