Kitsch motifs, cacophonous colour schemes and layered craftsmanship... Manish Arora has evolved a visual vocabulary of his own. As the designer gets ready to unveil his first exclusive Indian-wear line, he talks to T. Krithika Reddy about what it takes to reinterpret classics

In a style world saturated with cookie-cutter labels, Manish Arora stands out. Whether it’s Mumbai, Milan or Miami, he is one of the few Indian designers to instantly get the tick of approval from fashion folks for catapulting style to the level of spectacle. Having taken kitsch to its ultimate conclusion in Fish Fry, a label that abounds in quirky motifs, psychedelic colours and over-the-top styles, the designer who is perpetually under pressure to outdo his previous collection, turns to desi inspiration for an Indian-wear line that he’s showing at the Delhi Couture Week today (August 3). This one too is vividly themed and sure to have a trickle-down effect in the fashion world like some of his other collections.

Unlike most designers who regurgitate the same responses during interviews, Arora proves that here too he is individualistic. Whether it’s about his fixation for colour, mind space that teems with over a dozen creative collaborations or international forays, the designer speaks in a way that convinces us as to why he’s remained so firmly in the spotlight for over 15 years. Excerpts:

Couture or bridal? According to me, couture is misinterpreted as bridal in India. The mind of consumers has been conditioned to accept it. The objective of the brand “Indian by Manish Arora” is to provide affordable luxury in the fast-growing bridal segment and reach the aspirational consumer who has always wished to buy designerwear, but did not have access to it due to steep price points. What’s challenging in creating pieces with couture detailing is reinvention. It’s tough to come up with something new every season with ace craftsmanship.

Colour speak Each colour has a story to tell. When different hues are collated, they form unusual combinations that can surprisingly result in perfect harmony! In a market like India, colour is an imperative factor, particularly when you are talking bridal. It is also integral to my design sensibility. The strength of my designs lies in overwhelming fashionistas with a mélange of colours. Pink is my favourite.

Beyond clothes From Reebok and Swatch to Amrapali and Biba, my brand has seen several creative collaborations. In my opinion, fashion is not just limited to clothes. When I design, I visualise a head-to-toe look. It flows seamlessly. This explains why I put my heart in a dozen things beyond ensembles. As a designer, I enjoy the freedom to explore varied genres, themes and designs. I’ve collaborated with a gamut of brands that includes clothes, accessories and interiors. Each association is unique and gives me an opportunity to experiment with new ideas. It’s also a space where creativity meets commerce. The results have been rewarding.

Call of kitsch It has been the signature look of my label. I’ve always liked juxtaposing and blending elements from different worlds. Over time, it became my forte. At every level, the diverse elements I use come together to speak a cohesive and colourful design language. What’s wrong in giving kitsch an honourable place in fashion? I see no reason why it cannot be incorporated into our daily lives in the form of attire.

Fashion as drama Design does not stop with creating garments. It’s about narratives. When I create unique pieces, I want to communicate the story of its fruition to the audience so that they can connect with it. Ramp shows have to be a delightful visual experience. Making people feel and understand your journey through a show is as important as a collection making it to the stores.

Formative years No stumbling blocks. They were building blocks, I would say. Every phase in my life has been a learning curve. What I created years ago, I see people doing and accepting even today. I was probably the only designer in the 1990s to evolve a unique and bold aesthetic which set me apart from my contemporaries and peers.

Past forward My lines are craft intensive. Embroidery, stones, beads, appliqué… have always occupied a prime place in my creations. Every season, I try and break rules and decode new crafts to quench my creative thirst. There’s no bigger satisfaction than to push oneself to create a product that’s appreciated over and over again. As far as tradition goes, I feel we have such a beautiful and regal heritage from which we can constantly draw inspiration.

Global forays I’ve just been lucky that my sensibilities have appealed beyond geographical boundaries. I design out of love and with a vision to grow and reach as many people as I can. Dozens of celebrities in the West have been spotted sporting a Manish Arora creation. I think each one has done full justice to my work.

Between fantasy and reality I’m perched in a place where fantasy meets reality. I feel fantasy should always reflect reality and vice versa. After so many years in fashion, people still think I’m an enigma. I guess it comes from the creative aura that surrounds people like me.

Quick seven

Fave designer Lies within myself!

Personal style Extrovert and dandyish

Love to design For Sonam Kapoor

The name Fish Fry It makes your nerves pop up!

On being called the John Galliano of India We have our individual styles

Paco Rabanne It was a great experience

Three things I love Music, Goa and ice cream