Sonata of flora and fauna

India Couture Week

German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s book Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature), which has around 100 multicoloured illustrations of micro-organisms, plants and animals, continues to be a source of inspiration to artists, designers and illustrators around the globe. The audience at the India Couture Week will see a bridal interpretation of Haeckel’s work on July 22 when designer Rahul Mishra will present “Monsoon Diaries”, on the ramp which will also have  a prominent insignia from Mishra’s childhood and monsoon’s characteristics. The 36-year-old designer tells Shilpa Raina about the line and why definition of couture needs to be revisited.
Excerpts:

Can you elaborate on the collection?
Our collection takes emotion from Ernst Haeckel’s work. The reason this collection is called ‘Monsoon Diaries’ is because we are gifted with this season and this part of the world. As a child, I came across amazing flowers that looked exotic and are not commonly known. Haeckel has also tried to find some of the rarest of rare species of flowers and animals and classified them.During monsoon we get to see some of these rarest of rare species and migratory birds, and this beauty is extremely inspirational. So my idea was to replicate that and Haeckel was the catalyst in taking our attention to something that deserved much attention.

How did you come across Ernst Haeckel’s work?
I discovered his work during my school days where I studied how he helped in the classification of different species - birds, plants and animals. He had a multifaceted personality- foremost biologist, artist, philosopher and teacher to name a few. It’s really inspiring to see so many different personalities in one person.

Is there any particular print from his work which finds prominance in your collection?
My idea was not just to replicate what he had painted. The inspiration revolved around his different kinds of work. One was his classification of humming bird, then his floral works, and how during monsoon new plantation happens. A young plant initially may look strange to us but then it grows into something more familiar.

Did you take any liberty and alter design patterns?
When I say my work is inspired from Ernst Haeckel’s work, I do not mean it in a literal way. A lot of times it is about creative liberty which an artiste needs to have. So a lot of times inspiration can be metaphorical also. So I would say we have taken a lot of creative liberty —starting from his work to my childhood experiences to the fresh character of monsoon because ultimately this collection has a lot of freshness. The flower motifs, construction, layering are all about a fresh perspective which we wanted to achieve for bridal wear.

Are your garments as detailed and vibrant as his sketches?
My idea was to imbibe that vibrancy detail wise. I wanted to do hand embroidery in a way that it looks like hand painting. And that is what Haeckel did with his paintbrush. We tried to stay away from complete vibrancy of colours because when I am talking of monsoon, there is a washed out effect but at the same time it’s very fresh. It’s like the flowers, birds and plants are seen in a cloudy weather with absence of stark sunlight,  so colours are a little subdued.

The word ‘couture’ is often associated with bridal in India. Do you think the idea is changing with few designers challenging this notion?
Couture everywhere around the globe, not just India, has been targeted for clients who have to go for a special kind of appearance. Abroad it can be red carpet events like Cannes but for India, those occasions include weddings. But at the same time, the idea of bridal has to be explored and this collection tries to explore weddings rather than just bridal couture. The definition of couture has to be revisited as I feel that something that is very expensive may not necessarily be couture, but something that is done with a lot of love and has taken a lot human hours can qualify as couture.

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