Ace couturier Manish Malhotra tells us how Indian fashion has earned a spotlight on the global ramp and how his travels have shaped his aesthetics. By Chirag Mohanty Samal
Couturier Manish Malhotra has played a major role in shaping Bollywood fashion. Right from the 90s till now, his famous muses have set many trends. It isn’t surprising, considering he has designed costumes for 800 films and has spent more than three decades in the industry. Through his 16-year-old eponymous label, he has revived traditional Indian crafts and embroideries, giving indigenous artisans a global platform. We caught up with the veteran designer and got him to tell us how the perception of Indian fashion has changed on the global ramp over the years and how his travels have influenced his work.
Excerpts from the interview with Manish Malhotra:
T+L India: How would you describe your journey in the industry so far?
Manish Malhotra: Exciting, exhilarating and sometimes exhausting, but over all empowering. With over 800 films to my credit and with 16 years of my label, I have been deeply rooted in the twin worlds of fashion and film so far.
T+L India: You beautifully showcase traditional Indian craft through your clothes, where do you draw inspiration from?
Manish Malhotra: I am a keen observer. Inspiration is everywhere—in nature, architecture, people going about their lives, a piece of art, an intricately decorated home, from my travels abroad or across our country.
T+L India: How do you think the perception about Indian fashion has changed on the global ramp in the last 30 years?
Manish Malhotra: The borders have definitely blurred; I’ve been in this industry for three decades and taking the textile conversation from grassroots to glamour across a global audience has been nothing less than surreal. Indian fashion has witnessed a massive transition, from embracing cultures to empowering traditions. Economically and socially, designers have gained enormous momentum in showcasing their collections at global events, thanks to new-age technology and social media that have helped people connect and create magic on international lands.
T+L India: While representing Indian fashion to a global audience, how do you ensure you portray the right image?
Manish Malhotra: In a growing technology-run and globalised world, people are forgetting the traditional crafts and moving towards innovation. Due to this, Indian artisans and their art are losing their grip. Consequently, we design timeless and seasonless collections that meet the requirements of the new-age customers, and simultaneously preserve and protect the artisans’ livelihoods.
T+L India: How would you define luxury?
Manish Malhotra: Luxury to me is thoughtful, valuable, and slow. Every moment in the embrace of luxury should be celebrated and savoured. The time- lessness and experience of the purchase should ensure quality. The past few years have redefined the word ‘couture’; it’s more than just a physical product of privilege. Brands are nurturing and building lasting relationships and making clients feel they’re a part of something crucial. From viewing the product digitally and connecting with its brand story to physically acquiring, the process has become personal. And that’s how every consumer wants to feel; when life seems short, they want to invest in something valuable and everlasting.
T+L India: What has been your most luxurious vacation in India?
Manish Malhotra: Recently, I went to Amanbagh in Jaipur with my family for my birthday and that was quite an experience.
T+L India: What is the best way of representing Indian luxury to the world?
Manish Malhotra: Luxury lies between the quality of navigating the now and adapting to the future. For the good and better, the perception of luxury has changed due to pandemic- driven transitions. Fulfilling experiences have become a top priority. Customers look forward to thoughtful, valuable, and feel-good shopping experiences. We strive to nurture and build lasting relationships with clients locally and globally by ensuring quality products and services that are aligned with their superior functionality.
T+L India: Which cities in India do you find most inspiring as an artist?
Manish Malhotra: The beauty of India lies in its diversity and ethnicity. There’s no comparison; like every love story, every city is unique here.
T+L India: Any Indian destination that you would recommend to the world?
Manish Malhotra: Varanasi for its spiritual essence and beauty.
T+L India: Your happiest travel memory?
Manish Malhotra: Every memory is great; travel is one of my favourite activities, and I’m happy with every destination.
T+L India: You travel so much for shows around the world, which is your favourite destination, and why?
Manish Malhotra: Dubai is a land of the future; it’s ever-evolving in every aspect, and that’s how we envision our brand. I also like London for its earthy and vintage feel.
T+L India: You love India because…
Manish Malhotra: It’s my home and always will be. I love the diversity, ethnicity, and how multi- cultured our country is.