Couturier Rahul Mishra takes us through the making of his latest collection, showcased at the Paris Haute Couture Week

The designer talks about his understanding of the cosmos, his journey in the industry and more
Couturier Rahul Mishra takes us through the making of his latest collection, showcased at the Paris Haute Couture Week

A stone’s throw from the Tuileries Garden, created by queen Catherine de’ Medici in 1564, sits The Westin Paris, Vendôme, a historic hotel, which first opened its doors in 1878. It was here, in the vicinity of iconic landmarks such as the Louvre, that couturier Rahul Mishra held the fashion presentation of his latest collection, Cosmos, as part of the Paris Haute Couture Week, which concluded last Thursday. “I’ve been coming to the Paris fashion weeks for close to 10 years now. It’s taken me this long to be able to showcase at such a venue, which was one of the legendary Yves Saint Laurent’s favourite spots. I could have held it here earlier, but I wanted to take it slow and move in this direction only when I had crossed a certain target I had set for myself,” begins Rahul.

In a season where heritage luxury houses like Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Chanel and Valentino, pulled out all the stops to unveil fashion spectacles rather than mere garments, the Indian designer held his own with his line of avant-garde silhouettes detailed with his signature hand-embroidered fabric that wouldn’t look out of place in a museum or an art gallery.

Looking up
When asked about what led him to look at the universe as the theme for this collection, Rahul shares that it was the coming together of a few different experiences, thoughts and ideas. One can see the science graduate in him coming to the fore when he describes theories, and cites the latest developments in the field to drive home his point. “I’m a science graduate after all, and I’ve been interested in the cosmos for a long time. I have always thought about the possibility of replicating elements of the universe through design, but I wasn’t confident enough to tackle that challenge up until now,” shares Rahul, adding, “I find it so fascinating that what we do know about the universe is only 5 per cent. There’s 95 per cent more that we know nothing about. But now, with the James Webb telescope (launched in June 2022, it is considered the next best invention after the Hubble telescope, as it allows scientists to view objects that are much farther away or too dim for the Hubble), I can’t wait to see what we will learn.” However, apart from astronomical theories and findings, Rahul was also interested and moved by ancient Indian principles and spirituality. “I believe in the Indian concept of ‘aham brahmasmi’ — I am the universe. And this ‘I’ is not just humans. It could be anything from a ladybird, which I have depicted in some of my garments, to a leaf or an entire jungle reserve, such as the Jim Corbett National Park,” he explains.

To replicate the cosmos for movies is a tough ask and the designer shares that doing the same using nothing but fabric, needle and thread is even more so. “I don’t think I would have taken on this theme before now. For me, the challenge was not just creating cosmic elements, but also creating a feeling of the cosmos,” he tells us. The collection has been over six months in the making and is the culmination of the efforts of over 500 artisans. 

Deep dive
The word ‘cosmos’ typically conjures images of celestial bodies, but the couturier decided to look down and around, rather than just up. Hence, recurring motifs include jellyfish, cityscapes, birds and water bodies. Delicate tulle and organza were treated with utmost care while recreating these intricate illustrations of Rahul’s take on the theme. “It was such a beautiful experience. Even the artisans working on the embroidery were so excited about it,” he exclaims.

This collection is arguably one of the label’s most detailed and complex yet, right at home alongside some of fashion’s biggest names, whose intent is to shock and amuse as much as it is to showcase their craftsmanship. One of the defining looks of the show for instance was the ‘jellyfish’ — a sheer cape-like number, shaped and embellished to imitate the umbrella and tentacles of the sea creature. “It was a simple idea but the construction of it was quite complicated,” says Rahul of the piece which boasts defined and exaggerated shoulders, and a body covered in Swarovski crystals in varying shades of blue and silver. 

The first look that he sent down the runway, on the other hand, one could say, captured the essence of his vision — a showstopping black gown with a bustier-style sheer bodice bearing golden fish and undulating rivers, and a heavy skirt where galactic elements, deep ocean organisms and a sunken city merge on gossamer black tulle. The dress was paired with a long black jacket, detailed with an upturned cityscape plunging towards the multi-layered and scalloped hem. This collection sees a heavy use of scallops, as evident in a frothy number embellished with blue beads, crystals and hand-casted brass fish, and in another floor-grazing gown where the scallops are at the back of the skirt, each one hand embroidered with unique motifs. “The details in each piece are very interesting. Buildings are upside down, galaxies are melting and merging into cities, while towns are submerged in water,” says the couturier, adding, “every collection is challenging in its own way. There are multiple ways to go about executing each design that I envision. The difficult part, often, is deciding which path to take. But it all came together beautifully in the end.”

Talking numbers
The Delhi-based designer has been showcasing his work in Paris since 2013, but he believes that it is only now that he has started gaining genuine love, appreciation and respect. In a show that was attended by the likes of actors Kelly Rutherford and Ashley Park, Rahul didn’t fail to make an impression but a look at his earlier collections, and you’ll learn that his garments have always been impressive. However, the strategic decision to first focus on profits and growth before focusing on the finer details such as the location and celebrity guests has given him a solid foundation. “I see younger brands putting together these massive shows so early on in their journey, but I decided not to do that. It’s not an easy industry and every designer needs a solid business strategy before aiming higher,” says Rahul, who is also currently in the middle of a massive expansion plan. He hopes to open three new stores by the middle of the year and another three by the end of 2023, both within and outside the country. He also has his sights set on Paris for a new atelier. Aside from fashion, he’s in the process of constructing a passive house (energy-efficient constructions that use less energy and resources for heating or cooling) in the foothills of the Himalayas. “There’s a lot happening this year, and you will learn more about all my projects when the time is right,” he says, in conclusion. 

Email:; Twitter: @rushmeee

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