Tim Gunn told us that he thinks people shouldn't even bother getting into the fashion industry if they're not ready for blood, sweat, tears and lots of rejection. Not only is it incredibly difficult to gain recognition, but once you've gained that recognition, it's as difficult, if not more so, to actually make money. With that in mind, the importance of fashion competitions, which come with monetary compensation and industry recognition, can never be undervalued. The latest to make headlines is Indian designer Rahul Mishra, who nabbed the International Woolmark Prize after presenting his collection in Milan. The annual prize, sponsored by the Australian wool industry, counts Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld among its early winners. In a nod to just how difficult it is to achieve financial success, among the other four finalists was Altuzarra, who is a regular in top glossies, a near staple in luxury department stores and always attracts A-list editors to his shows.
A finalist for India and the Middle East (the other finalists were ffiXXed for Asia, Christopher Esber for Australia, Sibling for Europe and Altuzarra for the U.S.), Mishra gets a prize of 100,000 Australian dollars (about $92,000), and the capsule collection he designed for the competition will be sold at iconic luxury retailers including Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue, 10 Corso Como and Joyce. What makes Mishra's win particularly notable is that he is actively working to preserve Indian handlooms and other Indian handcrafts in an effort to empower Indians who make their living off of a dying art. He is doing this incredibly effectively by showcasing his home country's traditional techniques in a modern way, which is beautifully reflected in his Lotus-inspired Woolmark collection.
A graduate of India's National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, he became the first non-European designer to win a scholarship at Milan's Istituto Marangoni fashion school and he has won the International Designer of the Year award at the International Apparel Federation, an annual convention held in Netherlands. He's also regularly named as one of the most influential Indian designers by glossies including Elle. Now with a coveted prize under his belt and the attention of Alexa Chung, Frida Giannini, Franka Sozzani, Tim Blanks — just a handful of the 11 judges — Mishra seems poised to bring traditional crafts to an increasingly wide audience.
In a press release, the designer declared, “I feel like this is a dream and this is giving me new hopes for my future career. This award will change the perception of global fashion in regards to Indian fashion and this is all because wool — an amazing fibre, the fibre of possibilities.”
All images from Rahul Mishra