Manish Arora is arguably India’s most influential fashion persona on the world stage. His vivid, psychedelically colored designs have dazzled fashion show audiences ever since he abandoned a career in business to “do something more creative”.

INTERVIEW Paco Rabanne

Manish Arora – quirky and quixotic king of the catwalk

Manish Arora is arguably India’s most influential fashion persona on the world stage. His vivid, psychedelically colored designs have dazzled fashion show audiences ever since he abandoned a career in business to “do something more creative”.

Quirky versatility
He has fingers in many pies – literally, given his limited-edition pastry for Café De la Paix, Paris. Collaborations are legion: showing his collections with Mercedes Benz, India, to give heightened drama to the launch of a new Merc; creating a global marketing campaign for Nespresso called N-Art ‘Manish Arora for Nespresso’; designing a range of limited-edition Swatch watches; and coming up with an exotic signature line of packaging for MAC cosmetics.

On top of all this, the prolific Arora has created an eyewear line for Inspecs. For this, he drew inspiration from the textures in his garments, applying them to the metals and acetates of the frames, along with his trademark no-holds-barred approach to color. But a significant part of his portfolio has been his work with Reebok, designing shoes through his diffusion label, Fish Fry, a sub-brand that’s as well known as Arora himself. (People actually call out “Fish Fry!” to him on the streets.)

Technical wizardry
Arora also featured in a global ad campaign for SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS for whom he created a limited edition ‘Hearts’ collection. Each crystal pendant is shaped like the palpitating organ, but by manipulating the shapes and colors, he conveys different types of love – infatuation, passion, commitment, longing and ruefulness. SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS and Arora have a relationship of some seven years’ standing, and the relationship is a warm and important one.

Now, as recently christened artistic director of Paco Rabanne, Arora is behind the launch of SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS’ innovative Crystal Fur, which he has incorporated in the latest edition of the iconic ‘69’ bag in Arora’s debut prêt-à-porter collection for the brand. The collection will also feature other phenomenal SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS products, such as Crystal Mesh, Chaton Tex and Transfers on various outfits and accessories.

Interestingly, the Crystal Fur concept came about through partially fusing a high density of foiled Chatons on to special polyurethane web. The result is a type of Crystal Mesh that’s stretchable like elastic and soft to the touch. Crystal Fur’s color, form and applications will be as unlimited as the imagination itself – from fashion, jewelry and figurines, to soft furnishings and industrial applications.

Stage magic
Arora’s celebrity fans include entertainment figures such as Heidi Klum, Selena Gomez, Nicole Scherzinger and Beth Ditto. But he has also received plaudits from the professionals, lauded by the likes of fashion editors Hilary Alexander and Suzy Menkes, who have been dazzled by his shows.

These are pure theatre, an intoxicating mix of wild and worldly, featuring magicians conjuring pink-haired models out of fire and thin air, computer technology and battery-operated, flashing lights. Arora has also wrapped dresses in bright gold claws – the most famous being the one worn by the outré singer Nicki Minaj – and used flexible metallic carapaces that fit like futuristic corsetry. One such extravaganza featured a fox stole with winking green eyes and wearing a crown, draped over a velvet dress.

But Arora's tricks aren't meant to divert attention from his clothes. (As if that were possible...) When he does tone it down (a bit), you see his riotous embellishment and prints. One such is his work with German artist Amrie Hoffstater for Fall/Winter 2011/12. The clothes were reminiscent of the overblown decoration of a Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ altar. “The inspiration is the free spirit of a woman being part-gipsy and part-New Age style icon, as well as the elements of Amrie’s magic dolls.”

Irresistible India
“Coming from India, color has always fascinated me. I love to create garments that bring a smile to people’s faces and I try to achieve it with cheerful bursts of color and embroidery,” he says. This is evident in his vivid color palette and avant-garde motifs, and the way he combines contemporary silhouettes with traditional Indian craft methods of embroidery, appliqué and beading. “I am inspired by everything around me – people, places, architecture, landscape – anything that catches my eye!”

Indeed, it may be that he feels the rest of the world could benefit from his approach. “Indian women wear bright colors – it’s what I’ve seen since childhood. In London, for example, it’s all beige, khaki – perhaps red when they feel adventurous!”

Swarovski Crystals Magazine #01 - Everyday Extraordinary

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