MANISH Arora’s own label look for next spring featured eagle-feather collars, fluo stilettos and shiny silver body armour, but as style director for Paco Rabanne, the Indian designer says he still has some surprises in store.
The New Delhi designer today unveils his first line for Paco Rabanne as the house returns to the fashion fray following a five-year absence, after showcasing his own-name collection in Paris on Thursday (September 27).
“Twice as much work, two different shows, offices, teams. The only thing in common is me,” the designer told reporters as he put the finishing touches to his own collection this week.
Known for his richly ornamental style and eye-popping palette, Arora says there is a natural kinship between his work and the Rabanne heritage.
“It’s all about shape and hand, it’s almost like couture. My work is about taking little elements and putting thousands of them in one garment.
“The ideas, the concept is the same, it’s just the look is totally different,” said the designer, dressed head to toe in black with silver beard, chunky gold watch and matching golden Dr Marten boots.
At Paco Rabanne, Arora’s job is to renew a house founded in the 1960s by the extravagant Spanish Basque, famous for his revolutionary use of new materials like plastic and aluminium.
When Rabanne stood down in 2000, the house – which is now owned by the Spanish group Puig – tried its luck with a string of designers but ended up winding its fashion operations down in 2006 to focus instead on perfume.
Looking back at the Basque designer’s work over the years, Arora said he “was trying to imagine what Paco Rabanne should look like in 2012. I made the collection keeping that in mind.”
“Of course there is shine and metal, I love all that. I like metallic shine, so did Paco Rabanne. So both will be there.”
But for the label’s comeback collection, Arora also drew inspiration from the organic work of the Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor.
Born in Mumbai, Arora graduated from fashion school in New Delhi in 1994, setting up his own label three years later.
His work was quickly snapped up by upmarket boutiques in London and Paris and in 2005 Arora took his singular vision to London Fashion Week, moving two years later to Paris where he is the only Indian in the official calendar.
These days he spends half the month in the French capital and the rest globe-trotting between his New Delhi studio and the rest of the world.
For his own line unveiled on Thursday, Arora took as a starting point the colour of skin, using sheer fabrics and the bodies of his models to reveal a human rainbow of blacks, browns and whites.
But the translucent, nude silks – leggings, skirts or sleeveless tops – were anything but simple: encrusted with thick layers of sequins or pins that rustled like sea shells as the models walked.
Iridescent silver body cladding was mapped with psychedelic swirled patterns, while shots of fluo pink and green popped up on ostrich feathers or ankle-hugging spiky stiletto boots.
“It’s intricate but not overdone,” he said of the collection’s pitch. “There is a lot of embroidery but it’s controlled, keeping in mind the European market.”
Arora also drew on hippie culture with Robert Altman shots of ecstatic music festival crowds, rendered on floor-sweeping skirts or A-line capes, either printed or hand-stitched from hundreds of pieces.
“It has its element of special pieces, that are crazy,” Arora told reporters with a laugh, as a model walked past encased in a black birdcage-like bustier, tropical green birds perched on its top.
“And at the same time there are clothes which are more believable. It’s a step forward from my work before where there were more crazy elements. It’s crazy believable.”