Oh My Gogh!

India Today - - LEISURE - —Chinki Sinha

In­dian fash­ion de­signer Rahul Mishra was walk­ing the streets of the French cap­i­tal af­ter mid­night last Oc­to­ber, when he stum­bled upon the city’s Nuit Blanche fes­ti­val— a free dusk-till-dawn car­ni­val of arts and cul­ture, in­spired by St Petersburg’s ‘White Nights’. Still buzzing from his own show at the Paris Fash­ion Week, he found him­self at the Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou, mod­ern art’s an­swer to the Lou­vre, and stepped in­side to con­front Vin­cent van Gogh’s stun­ning Sun­flow­ers se­ries. The vi­brant, al­most psy­che­delic paint­ings fired his imag­i­na­tion. He did not make it back to his ho­tel till 4 am, and even then, his mind reeled with im­ages and ideas for a col­lec­tion in­spired by the great Dutch im­pres­sion­ist and the works of Paul Signac, one of the pi­o­neers of pointil­lism.

“It looked like paint had been

MISHRA HAS HELD ON TO A COV­ETED SPOT AT THE PARIS FASH­ION WEEK FOR SIX YEARS RUN­NING

sculpted over can­vas. These were thick brush strokes. I took hun­dreds of pic­tures. When you go to mu­se­ums, there are pro­to­cols. Here, you could view the paint­ings from close quar­ters,” he says.

Now, Mishra is ready­ing the cre­ations in­spired by that Paris ren­dezvous for his next show in the City of Lights in March, dar­ing to em­u­late not only one of the world’s great­est and most recog­nised paint­ings, but also fash­ion leg­end Yves Saint Lau­rent—who in­cor­po­rated Van Gogh’s sun­flow­ers on an iconic jacket in 1988. The re­sults prom­ise to be breath­tak­ing.

Mishra, the first In­dian to win the In­ter­na­tional Wool­mark Prize, in 2014, is one of only two In­dian de­sign­ers to have held on to a cov­eted spot at the Paris Fash­ion Week for six years run­ning, show­cas­ing his col­lec­tions along­side heavy­weights like John Gal­liano and Her­mes. Feted by fash­ion critic Suzy Menkes for his elegant use of hand­work made by In­dian ar­ti­sans, Mishra’s work on the sun­flower-in­spired col­lec­tion prompted him to be­gin call­ing his em­broi­der­ers “his 200 Van Goghs”. Along with his ar­ti­sans, Mishra spent months work­ing to recre­ate the pointil­list ef­fect that Van Gogh achieved. To do so, he stud­ied the the­ory and tech­nique of im­pres­sion­is­tic pointil­lism to un­der­stand the mind of the artist. “In­spi­ra­tion is like a dream. It’s like fall­ing in love. The en­gage­ment hap­pens and it is like a chain re­ac­tion,” he says. It takes Mishra’s 200 Van Goghs a full day to make a sin­gle sun­flower. But the stitch­ing evokes the depth of the Dutch im­pres­sion­ist’s thick brush­strokes, thanks to their use of three-di­men­sional em­broi­dery, which uses raised knots to cre­ate tex­tu­ral ef­fects. He bor­rowed a loop­ing tech­nique from tra­di­tional zardozi work, then combed it to give the flow­ers a vel­vety tex­ture, us­ing French knots along the edges of the flow­ers.

One jacket fea­tures both a Van Gogh-in­spired multi-coloured sun and a boat against a blue hori­zon, in­spired by Paul Signac, a mas­ter of land­scapes. On it, Mishra strove to cap­ture the com­plex­ity of Van Gogh’s ge­nius, who is now be­lieved to have suf­fered from bipo­lar disor­der.

“I want to leave the view­ers with cer­tain ques­tions. They need to feel re­spon­si­ble,” he says, adding that they should feel “sad that they never thought this could be pos­si­ble with the kind of em­broi­dery we have in In­dia. It is all about mak­ing it mine. Even the sun­flow­ers”.

RAHUL MISHRA His new col­lec­tion is in­spired by Vin­cent­van Gogh’s Sun­flow­ers

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