Designer Manish Arora’s signature statement has always been his unique sense of style, and a kaleidoscopic use of motifs. Arora’s Spring Summer 2020 show at Paris Fashion Week last year was special, not only because the designer shifted from a runway to a presentation format, but he also celebrated one year of the amendment to Section 377 of the Indian Constitution. “I was at the airport when I first heard the news, I smiled throughout my journey. I was so glad that the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community were being recognised. But we still have a long way to go and this was a small step in the right direction,” says Arora when we ask him about his first reaction to the news about Section 377 being amended.
On ramp: ‘We are Family’ is a celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community; Manish Arora (below) special arrangement
More recently, Arora did a variation of his Paris show at Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) Summer Resort 2020. Appropriately called, ‘We Are Family’, Arora had eight models present his creations on pedestals, bringing them closer to the audience and their phone cameras. “I wanted the viewers to get more personal with my art, to see these spectacular members of my family in all their glory and interact with them in a more intimate setting,” he emphasises. Just like its Parisian avatar, the Mumbai show had members of the Indian queer community as his models.
Over the years, Arora has paid homage to love and diversity in all his collections. “‘We are Family’ is a celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, saluting the spirit of a tribe that redefined their destiny by daring to defend their dream. It is a collection that provides a passage for their creativity in an explosion of colour.” Arora says that artists have always been the most vocal and passionate about diversity and that the fashion community has led the path when it comes to campaigning for equality for all, “I don’t think I would have had this freedom if I wasn’t a fashion designer,” he asserts. To his sorrow, Arora’s show was on the day when designer Wendell Rodricks that died (February 12). “Wendell was a stalwart in the industry and a prominent voice in the LGBTQIA+ community, he will be truly missed,” says Arora.
Ticket to Paris
Arora grew up in Mumbai and went to Delhi when he was 17 to study at NIFT. It was in Delhi that he got to be himself and felt truly accepted. Later, Arora moved to Paris later and continues to live there for half the year. “Paris opened my mind to new experiences, new people and a whole new world. I live in Paris for half the year. It’s also a place where I feel highly inspired,” says Arora who loves to travel and immerse himself in different cultures for inspiration.
Back home, Arora is busy with many design collaborations, ranging from bed linen to one with a luxury Ayurveda brand. He was in fact, one of the first Indian designers to get into product collaborations, much before his desi peers. “It’s important for me to seek a certain synergy with the brand. I’ve always ensured that I like the brand’s vision, ethos and values before going ahead with the collaboration. Collaborations are a great way to do something dramatically different and showcase my work on different products and platforms,” he says.
Next year, Arora completes 30 years in the industry, it’s a milestone that he says still comes as a shock. “Thirty years ago, I used colours and motifs that represented love and equality. In the early 90s, very few people would have understood and accepted equal love and today, a huge part of the generation lives it,” he says. For Arora colours and motifs represent equality and love and are the basis of all of his designs. His advice for new designers is straightforward, “Seek inspiration from everywhere, travel the world, immerse yourself in experiences, follow your heart when creating designs. And stay true to yourself and your vision. I’ve always done that,” he elaborates.