Manish Arora Lives in a Fantasy World

Launching in New Delhi, but soon showing in London, then Paris, where he’s currently on the prêt-à-porter calendar, Manish Arora has a resume that reads like a world map—and a colorful one at that. Although rooted in practicality, he says, his designs evoke a kaleidoscopic fantasy world full of searing colors, wild animals and surreal shapes. His skirts for spring ’09, for instance, were made out of miniature, but working, carousels. For fall ’10, he showed more of his signature fractal-like prints—worn with neon Louise Brooks bobs—in a sort of futuristic Bollywood. Dazzled by his collections, we wanted to know how his vivid imagination ticks…

Your prints are so vibrant. What color do you like the most?

Bright Indian pink! But I love color on the whole, all tints and shades. The more the better, accented with gold or silver.

Do you design more with an eye toward the past or future?

I design toward the future and at the same time I incorporate traditional Indian techniques in surface ornamentation.

If you could create a fantasy world, what would it look like?

Bright, sparkly, colorful and Space Age.

At times your clothes have featured prints or images of wild animals. What animal are you most drawn to?

I like tigers. They’re so regal. I love the contrast of the black and orange in their coats. Not as a garment though—just wild and free!

What is the most decadent or extravagant thing you’ve done?

I really don’t remember. I’m a pretty simple person. I strongly believe in practicality. I guess my need for extravagance is satisfied when I design my clothes. 

What are your thoughts about doing couture?

I would love to do it. If time permits, one day I will.

What was your most beloved storybook when you were a child? What is it now?

The Ugly Duckling. Today, Alice in Wonderland.

Is there a specific time or place when ideas come most freely?

As an artist, you can find inspiration from almost anything, from eras and civilizations to people and places. The list is endless. You always come across things that strike that cord with you. This is fashion, always evolving, constantly on the move.

What is the scene for a young designer starting in India? What was your experience?

I consider myself a young designer because I’m still in the process of evolving. But on a general note, nowadays it is very difficult for new designers in India to make a mark, as there is a lot of competition that’s growing by the day. 

What is one fashion question you wish the press wouldn’t ask?

One question that I don’t appreciate is when the press compares the styles of two designers. A lot of work goes into creating our pieces by translating our individual ideologies into reality. In my opinion, unless a design has been knocked off, two artists should never be compared.

You’ve worked with Reebok on a limited-edition shoe. Any other collaborations in the works?

I love collaborating with brands and artists. It takes your scale of designing to the next level. Currently I’m doing a project with Nespresso. Also, I designed an elephant [sculpture] for auction for the Elephant Parade in London.