Environment-employment empowerment is way forward
Rahul Mishra strongly feels that sustainable luxury goes hand in hand with slowing fashion. His perspective expands the very definition of slow fashion. It is not just about conscious consumption versus consumed, or quality versus quantity, or education versus ignorance; it is also about slowing the process of making the garment and the numerous artisan hands involved in making those, and it is about natural imperfection versus mechanical perfection. This perspective is exhilarating for the change it brings. Mishra’s philosophy of serving and empowering the poor artisans is based on Gandhian principles.
What does 'slow fashion' mean to you and your work?
'Slow fashion' is the idea of slowing down the process of making a garment so as to make it participatory-employ multiple hands, increase its shelf life and have minimum impact on the environment. The craftsmanship involved with cutting edge fashion is a great formula for maximising participation across villages. In this century, we need to look at fashion from a completely new perspective, because fashion can lead the society to new and better world. The idea of fashion needs to be redefined, it should be created not just for consumption; but it should also remain focused on participation. There should be an active participation- engagement correlating environment, which should create employment and lead to an overall empowerment.
Do you believe the fashion calendar has gone about as fast as it can (why); and how can both designers and customers slow this pace down?
Fashion calendars have gone as fast as they can because fashion weeks are held to increase business and showcase the newness of fashion. The busy and fast fashion calendar gives birth to new and numerous trends every season, which are short-lived, and in the days of the Internet even shorter. Now we have come down to a point of fashion fatigue, because of ever-changing trends and pressure to look new every time. With fast fashion and ultra-fast lifestyle, we have completely forgotten the joy of wearing new clothes, the newness today looks a touch monotonous. So, it is critical to slow down the pace and enjoy fashion to the fullest.
Designers should focus on creating a sustainable newness, by slowing down the process of garment-making and creating more classic trans-seasonal looks. I think for the coming generation, the idea of fashion needs to be redefined-it should be created not just for consumption; but social responsibility should be underlined equally. The customer needs to be informed about the garment industry's connection and impact on the environment and depleting resources, slowing of the supply chain to reduce the number of trends and seasons, encourage quality production, and return greater value to garments removing the image of disposability of fashion. The knowledge should be fuelled using social media tools-the process of the product and the story must be told, so that customers can make an informed choice.
Why is it important to slow down the pace, i.e. who and what are being harmed with the super-fast-pace of much of fashion today?
Fast fashion is the biggest threat to the traditional crafts, but fashion is also the only hope for it. We have to focus on sustainable luxury-for me, sustainable luxury is all about reinventing traditional handloom textiles and crafts in a way, which connect them to luxury markets by making them one of a kind, tailor-made products that allow the owner to resemble no one else and show an appreciation and respect for craftsmanship. Luxury is a personal instinct where products need to have a meaning, heritage and an anecdote. Every craft of India has got a distinct meaning with a very strong heritage. When I work with craft, it is from a storyteller's delight!
The main focus behind our Woolmark collection was the idea of sustainable luxury through participation. Mahatma Gandhi's saying influenced our thought process: "Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him." So in that context we produce sustainable luxury, involving maximum participation and talk about reverse migration wherein we do not displace the craftspeople from their surroundings and dwellings.