Butterfly People by Rahul Mishra: 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’.
Rahul Mishra, the first Indian designer to showcase at the Paris Haute Couture Week champions slow fashion with traditional Indian crafts. His eponymous label with two flagship stores in India and a thriving national and international distribution channel, finds its genesis in the ideas of sustainability that present fashion as a tool to create participation and empower the local craft community of India.
The brand’s purpose defines the process. The achingly slowed down process of hand-weaving and hand embroidery allows to build sustainable livelihoods for more than 1000 artisans. International Fashion Editor of Vogue, Suzy Menkes, an avid follower of the brand’s work, regards Rahul a “national treasure” while the late Franca Sozzani has praised him as “successfully highlighting the best and most peculiar features of his homeland.”
The design house that works on the philosophy of the 3 E’s – Environment, Employment and Empowerment, aims to look at luxury from the lens of participation and not just consumption.
“My objective is to create jobs which help local craftsmen in their own villages in order to develop a circular economic growth in their societies. I take work to them rather than calling them to work for me. If villages are stronger we will have a stronger country, a stronger nation, and a stronger world. My entire philosophy revolves around that. The product will go through evolution – it will change and improve – but the philosophy is constant.” – Rahul Mishra
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