“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly,
“one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”
— adapted from Hans Christian Andersen
I follow the trajectory of the Indian designer Rahul Mishra since 2016, when Douglas and I started covering Paris Fashion Week. We were delighted with the embroidery, with his delicate trace. Such a sensitive spirit that prints this delicacy on special dresses. Rahul Mishra is also a strong entrepreneur who generates income for his community in India. During fashion discussions at Pandemia, I’ve heard the impact COVID19 generated at his business, and now I would like to share with you in the words of the designer, this is an interesting speech about the result of the next haute couture collection exhibited online today.
“With the migrant crisis reaching devastating levels, the above quote takes on a whole different meaning. Maybe it is enough to live, to survive, to feed and support your family through the most unprecedented times in recent human history. India witnessed one of the biggest crisis during this pandemic when thousands of migrant workers were displaced during the lockdown. A significant part of our New Delhi team is kaarigars (hand embroiderers and tailors), who, with the studio shut due to safety measures, were at the centre of the storm. We are fortunate to have built a brand that stood by them in these troubled times and will continue to do so. But my conversations with the artisans, some of whom have been with us for over a decade now, was a strong reminder of why we are doing what we do.
‘Butterfly People’ answers a simple, yet very pertinent question— ‘what is the relevance of couture in such times?’ The last few months have been a time when the entire atelier struggled together— “together” being the more important word here. We ensured that every artisan is supported despite the countrywide official lockdown and an acute drop in sales. We were anxious, like the rest of the world, because everything seemed uncertain. But we were together— in spirit.
Couture felt like a leap of faith. It united us as we started thinking, ideating, sketching from the safety of our homes and crafting the first samples with few embroiderers in the studio. I am often questioned on the need of clothes that are so indulgent, with such level of detail and extravagance. The core idea behind the luxury we are trying to cultivate is pushing for sustainable employment of the craft community. Indeed, there is an unperturbed expression of art through our motifs, but every stitch, every knot is strongly related to the present and future of an artisan, especially hit by the pandemic. The greatest leveller, that did not see race, religion or social hierarchy, brought with itself a sea of change.
This period of pause let nature be without much human intervention. Skies in Delhi have been the clearest shade of blue and the air cleaner than ever. Migratory birds have miraculously appeared along long forgotten water bodies and the cityscape has been kissed by nature’s revival. This took me back to the corals in Maldives. Was there the slightest chance of the lost colours re-emerging in brighter hues? How do the ocean beds look now? Are they replete with newfound psychedelia?
The lotus pond paints a very different picture today, with swarms of dragonflies perched on floating leaves and the atelier feels nothing short of a garden – hosting, cultivating and celebrating the craftsmanship of the ‘Butterfly People’.”