Oh My Gogh!
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