The Kerala sari comes in an altogether new avatar in designer Rahul Mishra’s hands. You can wear it on both sides. His signature reversible outfit has two different looks sometimes, one for the day and the other, for evening wear

The Kerala sari continues to be a muse for designers all over the world. Designer Rahul Mishra is no different. He uses Kerala fabrics to create designer wear. But you can wear his clothes both sides. Yes, that’s his signature Kerala reversible line. This was first picked by Browns, London before it became a hit amongst buyers in India. This season he is taking his Kerala style forward, in a ‘completely new look.’ What attracted him to the Kerala sari?

The concept of the reversible garment has certainly been elevated to designer status by him. What exactly is his concept?

Two uses

“Given the demands of city life, I thought of designing garments that would have one look during office hours and could be reversed for a completely different look for the evening. The fabric, cut, volume, drape, graphics, colour of the two sides of the dress are completely different so it is really two garments in one, not just an attire like a reversible jacket,” says Rahul in an e-mail interview to The MetroPlus.

This piece of garment, the reversible, also espouses his philosophy.

“I call it Idea India, where in the backdrop of communal and urban-rural divides and debates over regional identities, the two faces of India seemed enormously important to me and I was tempted to build the bridge between them. It was natural that nothing but handwoven, essentially Indian cloth would do for this. For the reversible garment, on one side I chose the off-white handloom fabric with zari borders from Kerala and a jewelled Banarasi silk with a bold floral motif on the reverse side, showcasing the dichotomy and the possible seamlessness of Indian society.”

This Kerala connection began as a classroom project, discloses Rahul. “In 2005, as part of a classroom project I had do work on a collection based on a case study of an Indian craft. I did an extensive study of Kerala’s crafts and came up with an idea of reversible garments for tourists, travelling to Kerala. Later on I presented a reversible collection based on it at the Lakme Fashion Week in March 2006 and the rest is history. It was rated as one the best collections showcased.”

It was the success of this collection that brought a new dimension to his thinking.

For this project, his main focus was on value addition and augmenting the demand of handloom products from Kerala, to improve the condition of the weavers and to look at this craft in a modern perspective.

Rahul then moved on to other traditional textiles.

“India is like a mood board where every few hundred kilometres you travel there is a new textile or craft. I have worked with organza, khadi and digam silk, with traditional weaves from Kerala, Chanderi, Maheshwar, Benares, Bhagalpur as well as ikat weaves, bandhani fabrics, cottons from Coimbatore.

As a designer, I can sense the talent in crafts persons. I know the weaver in the village can create chic fashionable fabric for international buyers, and as a designer I have to be craft-oriented and create garments from these fabrics while keeping their identity intact.

To do so he works very closely with weavers, so much so that Rahul has become a messiah for the weaving community.

Working on the traditional has not deterred him from incorporating western style, something that he learnt at his course in Milan. “Western tailoring with Indian fabric is the best combination. It offers immense possibilities of creating a new look every season. My garments designed with handlooms are equally at home in Mumbai, Kochi or Milan. That is why I think my designs represent the best of both the worlds.”

Very little embroidery

Though Rahul’s designs bear the Indian stamp, they don’t celebrate Indian embroidery for he believes in keeping the “craft as pure as possible, so generally, no embroidery, though he has done traditional hand-embroideries like aari and patchwork.

“I strongly believe in the Gandhian way of involving weaker sections of society and bringing them into mainstream of economic development. The condition of craft people is India is not very good. Handloom consumption has been on the decline but it is poised for growth in the luxury segment. That is the way forward,” says the designer.

In Kochi Rahul is showcasing his Indian line called Jaama. The word Jaama, signifies the attire of great Mughals. To celebrate the spirit of festivity, this collection offers an eclectic mix of hand woven and embroidered saris, kurtas, jackets and lehenga.

The collection will be showcased at Collage, Panampilly Nagar till August 11.