Exclusive: Rahul Mishra on being the Grand Finale designer for Lakmē Fashion Week X FDCI

Expect a sculpted collection that illustrates the artistic process of subtraction at the House of Lakmē Grand Finale!

Harper's Bazaar India

It's fashion week season around the world and designers are putting their best foot forward, displaying their months of hard work and artistry on the runways. Back home, as Lakmē Fashion Week x FDCI starts tomorrow, all eyes are going to be peeled for trends and styles that will dominate the Indian fashion landscape in 2024. The next five days will be brimming with craftsmanship and glamour as we gather to celebrate fashion in every way, from intricate designs and gorgeous choreographies to Bollywood stars playing muses for couturiers.  

Rahul Mishra, who has dressed the likes of Zendaya, Beyoncé, and Mark Zuckerberg apart from a huge list of Bollywood celebs, will be the House of Lakmē Grand Finale designer at Lakmē Fashion Week this season. The designer has been a torchbearer of Indian craftsmanship on the global stage, and this time, he is bringing home his label AFEW, marking its debut in India.

In a conversation with Harper’s Bazaar India, Rahul Mishra talks about his collection, how he drew inspiration from his daughter for the same, the growing demand for easy-to-wear luxury fashion, and more. 

Harper's Bazaar India: You’ve dressed influential personalities like Zendaya, Beyoncé, and more recently, Mark Zuckerberg. How does it feel to have a global platform and what do you intend to do with it? 

Rahul Mishra: It's been an incredible journey, and I'm immensely grateful for the opportunity to share my creative vision on a global stage. Dressing people like Zendaya, Beyoncé, and others has been both, humbling and rewarding. We aim to cultivate a globally recognised and artistically driven brand image, ensuring that our designs resonate with audiences across borders.

HB: We are excited to see your show as the House of Lakmē Grand Finale at Lakmē Fashion Week x FDCI. Take us through your prep phase. 

RM: I am elated and honoured to be chosen as the showcase designer for the House of Lakmē Grand Finale. It's an exciting opportunity for AFEW Rahul Mishra; it marks our second showcase and debut on the Indian stage. I'm deeply grateful to the Lakmé team, Reliance Brands, and FDCI for selecting us for this presentation. We've been eagerly preparing to unveil our new brand to the Indian audience, and I can't wait to showcase our ready-to-wear segment. 

HB: AFEW is your ready-to-wear luxury label. We’ve also seen other designers build labels that offer everyday luxury. What according to you has increased the demand for ready-to-wear luxury homegrown labels in recent times?

RM: The fashion scene is evolving rapidly, and we're seeing a surge in demand for ready-to-wear luxury labels. While couture has long been associated with special occasions, our ready-to-wear collections offer a more practical yet equally artistic approach to dressing. We aim to create inclusive and easy-to-wear pieces that draw inspiration from couture, translating it into everyday pieces.

What sets our ready-to-wear line apart is the incorporation of handmade elements and meaningful artisanal engagement, such as hand embroidery. This shift towards new-age luxury, characterised by artisanal craftsmanship and soulful design, is not just a local trend but a global movement. 

HB: Tell us about the collection you will be showcasing in the grand finale. Your press note mentions it carries influences from characters from the children’s story The Fox and the Star—did your daughter inspire you in any way? 

RM: The collection is inspired by my constant muse i.e. nature as the ultimate sculptor. We are illustrating the artistic process of subtraction. Michelangelo once said that sculptures, like that of Moses, are already present within the stone blocks; we merely chisel away the stone to free them. This concept of both adding and subtracting elements to create a form of storytelling is a major highlight of this collection.

This idea connects to the story from the book The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith, where a fox is accompanied by a constant companion, a star, who always follows and supports her. This narrative reflects my observations as I watch my daughter Aarna grow every day. Aarna has, in a way, rekindled the child within me, influencing my designs to become increasingly artistic, and drawing me away from focusing solely on commercial or red-carpet styles. Instead, I aim to create pieces that are conversational and artistic. I attribute this approach to the daily learning experiences with my daughter.


HB: For this collection, you’ve opted for a more sculpted and structured appeal, while also exhibiting geometric representations of a few natural forms. What kind of vibe do you believe a sculpted look exhibits? How did the LakmēMultiSlayer sticks inspire you?

RM: AFEW's latest collection moulds silhouettes and chisels layers to craft a modern, sculptural homage to the wearer's form. Our collection draws inspiration from the fundamental concept of a 'Sculptor', wherein abstraction and sculpting liberate a sculpture from a solid block of material. Geometric and three-dimensional elements adorn the garments, echoing nature's mastery as the ultimate artist, constantly shaping captivating forms around us.

The sculpted look exudes a sense of refined precision and definition, akin to the effortless application of LakmēMultiSlayer sticks. These sticks allow for one to snatch, lift, or sculpt their features, simplifying the process with just a few sticks for foundation, blush, contour, and highlighter. Expect a show that's artistic, youthful, and vibrant and inspired by these slick, edgy, and multipurpose sticks!

HB: We already see large, embroidered motifs in your collection. What trends can we expect to emerge from the show? 

RM: The focus is on tone-on-tone designs with exaggerated proportions, showing a serious inclination towards artistry. This approach mirrors the muted celebration often seen in sculptures, which typically feature a singular colour and texture, but with often exaggerated forms. We will also be introducing a variety of shape-shifting forms.

HB: What about your showstopper(s) do you think makes them the perfect Rahul Mishra muse?

RM: Our showstoppers have always been iconic figures, exuding vitality, experimentation, and forward-thinking fashion sensibilities. We're excited and can't wait to unveil our latest showstopper;  this is going to be an artistic and unparalleled experience for all spectators.

HB: It’s an exciting time—you’re doing an AFEW show for the first time in India, and closing the House of Lakmē Grand Finale at Lakmē Fashion Week x FDCI with it. Can you share tips on how you keep yourself centred before such big moments?

RM: It is an exciting time since it is the first big event for AFEW Rahul Mishra in India and working with the House of Lakmé has made it even more special. It is certainly going to be a big show. Having said that, being nervous is inevitable, especially since we still have a lot of preparations before the show. But I believe that everything will fall into place in the end, and we will yield a successful show for our audience. 

I think that is what motivates me and my team, to keep enjoying the process, being involved, and staying positive. I have days when I don’t feel so great. But I also have days when my team and I feel that zeal to work on creating a great collection together. I believe in creating an environment that helps you to wake up every day with the motivation to work on something exciting, and that is how this collection is being fabricated.

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