Manish Malhotra is today the last word on couture. However, he started out as a model fond of sketching and painting. He never received any formal training in fashion designing, but took a plunge in 1998 with his couture store Reverie — Manish Malhotra.Making of a success storyManish Malhotra reminisces nostalgically: “From my first assignment, which was styling the gorgeous Juhi Chawla in Swarg to winning the first Filmfare Award for costume designing in Rangeela, the last 26 years have been a never-ending learning curve.” His repertoire today includes designing for and styling Bollywood stars, a diffusion range, bridal and couture collection. He blends tradition, age-old techniques of craftsmanship and varied embroideries across India.The designer’s canvas is as vast as it is kaleidoscopic. From designing for Michael Jackson when he visited India to Hollywood A-listers such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Reese Witherspoon in Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair, Kylie Minogue and Jermaine Jackson and wife Halima, among others, of course.However, he gets his own share of criticism. To his detractors, who claim that his designs are partial to glamour over wearability, Malhotra candidly proclaims, “My styles have always been opulent, modern and unapologetically glamorous. The Manish Malhotra aesthetic accentuates the wearer’s personality and this is the foundation of every collection that we create.”
Another of his hallmarks is blending traditional grammar with contemporary designs. So you witness sharp western cuts, contemporary touch in traditional outfits, crop tops in off-shoulders and modern cuts with lehenga skirts and pants that embrace utility and comfort in style in his collections. “I attribute this to the infusion of modernity with tradition. The result is a cornucopia of unique looks and that’s exactly what my label stands for,” the designer explains.A witness to and participant in the changing fashion landscape, Malhotra feels gender parity in fashion is here to stay. “Increasing awareness and influx of global influences have led to a gradual shift in the mindset of not only women, but also that of men. People have become more receptive to trends and are trying styles beyond the traditional comfort zone.” No surprises then that the designer is set to open a store exclusively for men in the capital. “Indian men today are definitely more cognizant of the emerging international trends than they were before. People are adorning a modern creative approach to their fashion choices and this gives designers more leeway to blend design aesthetics with the changing preferences of today’s man.” This means you must brace yourself for seeing grooms in new drapes and cuts at the couturier’s store.
Talk of roots
A close observer would know that all of Malhotra’s design stories have been inspired by his consummate passion for reviving Indian craftsmanship. His recent couture collections have focused on reviving old structures, patterns, style and embroideries that are a blend of old-world charm amalgamated with contemporary silhouettes.Notable amongst these are ‘Threads of Emotion’ wherein he reinterpreted Punjab’s embroidery technique of phulkari, the recent Regal Threads where the designer showcased Gujarat’s craftsmanship and Benaras Weaves to name a few. In his summer couture 2017, the designer is reinventing chikankari and fusing it with various modern elements of design. “I shall continue to work towards integrating Indian heritage weaves with today’s sense of style and building crafts communities to empower skilled artisans,” he says.Social concern too transports itself in his design ethics as seen in his association with ‘Mijwan Welfare Society’. ‘Chikankari by Mijwan Welfare Society’ is a dream project that Malhotra has nurtured. “As one of the representatives of fashion in India, I took up the responsibility to revive Indian textile, culture and fabrics. Mijwan, to me, is a microcosm of what India has to offer to the world.”With plans to open flagship stores in London and Dubai, Malhotra sustains his enthusiasm and creative inspiration for designs passionately. “When what you do is not a ‘job’, you will not burn out. My work allows me the freedom to move around and find inspiration in everything around me. The cities that I travel to, the people I meet along the way and the things I see every day motivate me.” In the age of hyperactive social media fashion pundits and blink and miss trends, this one man has managed to match pace with the times as well as stay timeless.