How Manish Arora Celebrated A Decade In Fashion With Zoya’s Fine Jewels
It was a dreary September morning when I made my way around Paris’ cobbled streets before finally reaching Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen, a three-Michelin-star restaurant that flashed as the destination on my phone. Upon entering, I noticed that the space was cleared of any dining-related paraphernalia and its neoclassic interiors had been transformed into a fitting venue for Manish Arora’s 10th anniversary outing at Paris Fashion Week. The designer’s voice floated to me from an earlier conversation where he confided that he hailed from a typical Indian family who expected him to study business and subsequently join his father’s line of work. Call it what you will, the whisperings of his heart or a shove in the right direction by the universe, but Arora gathered the courage to pursue fashion at a time when the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in the capital was the only school in India that was reputed enough to teach the subject. From his very first show at The Park, New Delhi to his debuts at both London and Paris fashion weeks, Arora has come a long way, indeed.
I am shown to the front row and take my seat among the designer’s loyal patrons who patiently wait for the show to commence. As the dim lights are replaced by brighter ones, the models strut confidently in their circumambulation on the makeshift ramp that fences us in. We are privy to Arora’s vision of languorous mornings with floor-sweeping nightgowns paired with fur-trimmed mules and silk pyjamas emblazoned with dreamcatchers. These give way to bejewelled camisoles, sequinned boxer shorts, denim gilets and statement gowns in rainbow spangles — appropriate choice of attire to wear to Burning Man, a festival he travelled to last year with muse and jewellery designer Noor Fares. Arora would later tell me that Fares’ lifestyle was very much at the heart of the conception of this collection, so much so that he even titled it ‘Ready to Love’ in the vein of her general approach towards the world.
I certainly felt the love emanating in waves from the kaleidoscopic ensembles being paraded in front of me and soon noticed a pattern. Instead of Arora’s usual choice of chunky trinkets, the models were decked in delicate bijouterie. As official jewellery partner for Arora’s show this year, Zoya, the luxury diamond boutique, created a collection titled ‘Musée du Luxe’ that encapsulated the joie de vivre of Paris. We admired the flurry of emeralds that was inspired by the engraved padlocks on the Pont des Arts bridge. We marvelled at the dance of rubies that took after the city’s exotic peonies that bloom in spring. We lauded the extravagant tanzanite creation that was clearly reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower’s latticework. The show’s final segment saw Arabic prints on mosaic motifs, traditional zardozi adorning handwoven Chanderi and Aztec Animalia on coats leading to a real cracker of a showstopper ensemble that had no dearth of hearts and ornamentation.
I was guided backstage for a tête-à-tête with Arora and Amanpreet Ahluwalia, business head of Zoya, who waxed eloquent about how their partnership reflected the eclecticism of both brands. “The design direction and philosophy is versatile, modern and relevant. As a jewellery boutique, we constantly chart the very best of what’s trending while daring to be different and original. Our pieces are not what you would ordinarily expect when you think of Indian handcrafted jewellery and that’s why collaborating with Manish was the perfect decision.”
The designer, who was understandably euphoric about the heartening reception to his show, could barely stand still as he graciously accommodated those waiting to speak with him. As he flitted to me, ecstatic to find a face from back home, he conspiratorially said, “When I first started showing outside of India, I knew my heritage and nationality would be valuable assets because they made me stand out. I made a conscious decision to not emulate other international designers and embraced my background wholeheartedly, marrying it to a modern aesthetic. I have tried to harness India’s experience in embroidery and textiles and placed it in an international context by using traditional techniques to create innovative embellishments. It’s like presenting a part of India to the world year after year and it makes me feel so much closer to my motherland.”
As I walked out of the Ledoyen, I was still reeling from the vivid sartorial fantasy that I had just witnessed. The sky, previously encumbered by clouds, had turned into a clear, cerulean canopy. I remain unsure if it was brought on by the kindness of the heavens or Arora’s candy-coloured deluge.
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