'Not ready to compromise on my style'

Iwould have wanted India to recognise my efforts first,” says fashion designer Manish Arora who was recently conferred France’s highest award, Chevalier de la légion d’Honneur, which is given to recognise eminent accomplishments of service to France. 

As the youngest recipient of the award, among personalities like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Amitabh Bachchan and JRD Tata, and the only one from the field of fashion, Arora feels his journey has just begun.

“It doesn’t feel like I started long ago. This award makes me feel older. The journey has been long — around 15-16 years. But time wise, it has just flown by. It feels I just started yesterday. I always say that I am a new comer and want to keep thinking like that despite the honour,” the 43-year-old tells Metrolife.

Born and brought up in Mumbai, Arora graduated in commerce, and decided to change his career path and applied for the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, and then went to London. “I started in India first, and I think, I am what I am, and I am getting what I am because of the fact that I am an Indian. I can never forget that. I started in London about 12 years ago. I was asked to design for ballet (performances); and things started to fall in place,” he says, pointing out to his initial days in the field.

Recollecting how he landed in London having no “understanding of the enormous opportunity” before him, the designer says, “There are so many moments that are cherished in this career span. The funny one being that I landed in London in 2005 for the London Fashion Week not realising that one needs a public relations agent. I didn’t know that I had to get serious because I didn’t understand the enormousness of it. That was a first. I had to find my own way. I did not have an example to follow from India.”

Being the first one from India to consistently present in Paris for eight-and-a half years in 16 shows, he says France is his second home. “French are very good at understanding new ideas. I am not the first one (to be awarded). There have been Japanese designers Garson or Yohji Yamamoto or Belgium’s Dries van Noten. They are very welcoming of new talent. It does not matter where you come from. In fact, if you look at the Paris Fashion Week, the loved designers are actually not French. They belong to somewhere else and come to France,” he avers ahead of his next show in Paris on March 3.

Does he want to design for Bollywood? “I love Bollywood and some of my very good friends are from the industry. But that doesn’t mean that I want to do clothes for Bollywood. I have my own, very strong, opinion about fashion. I am not ready to compromise on my style. I want my style to show across. I am not here to do clothes for a regular story. If there is a film that deserves me, I will do it,” he avers.

Arora, who is regarded as the “John Galliano of India” for his innovative bold cuts, says it is necessary to believe in oneself. He mentions, “What worked for me was that I was honest with what I did and never compromised. I believed in myself and as many struggles as I might have had, I still didn’t budge from what I believed in. I never tried to convince the West. I never tried to be in the West. They found me because I just did what I believed in. That is the key point here. You have to do what you believe in and that is the only way you manage to create something or achieve something that
you want.”

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