Manish Arora: Maybe I’m telling the world that I want to be in love
All You Need Is Love: That’s the title and year-end message of a temporary art installation, unmissable when you drive down Mumbai’s Peddar Road. It’s a creative collaboration between fashion designer Manish Arora and St+art India Foundation, which has been reviving neighbourhoods in Indian cities with its street art projects. And the precious canvas is the iconic Jindal Mansion, which is the office of JSW Foundation.
Arora, who shuttles between Delhi and Paris, is well-known for the drama he brings to his clothing and runway shows. He was one of the first Indian designers to show his collections at the London and Paris Fashion Weeks in the early 2000s, he did a brief stint as creative director at French fashion house Paco Rabanne and currently retails his eponymous label from his Delhi studio.
He now brings the same fabulous flair to this public art installation. About 2,400 embroidery hoops are strung on wires that are then tethered through the height of the building. Each hoop frames a patterned fabric—embroidered or printed—in Arora’s signature palette of pink and gold, forming a heart-shape in the middle, plus bits and pieces that glow in the dark. It’s really quite stunning, more so as it sways gently in the breeze and shimmers in the sun. “Art can sometimes be an idea, but it’s also about skill and craftsmanship, like a painting that’s been in the making for many years. However, I like to have a modern spin to that classic thought,” says Arora.
Thirty-five artisans took three months to complete this curtain installation. “The St+art India Foundation is about youth, about being fun and trendy. The Jindal Mansion, that’s classic and beautiful. And me, I’m almost on the edge. In this installation, there’s a good dose of each,” he says, dressed in a striking pink and gold silk Nehru jacket from his own label.
For the Jindals, this project is a continuation of their generational relationship with art—both fine art and public art projects. “For me, it really started some 20 years ago, when, along with Dr Jamshed Bhabha (who founded the National Centre for the Performing Arts, or NCPA, with J.R.D. Tata), we had initiated public art projects like the Priyadarshini Park with Nandagopal,” says Sangita Jindal.
This time around, it’s her daughter, Tarini Jindal Handa, who has initiated the public art project with the St+art India Foundation. “I think it’s important to disrupt life.We hope that when passers-by look up at this, it brings a bit of happy disruption to their day,” says Tarini.
In 2014, the mansion was the canvas for another startling artwork, the Filthy Monster, by UK-based artist Filthy Luker. At the time, giant green inflatable tentacles crawled out of the facade.
All You Need Is Love is an extension of that collaboration, even though remarkably different in meaning and treatment. “We considered how to build on the theme of the last artwork but go beyond it. Filthy Monster was fun, spectacular, and like an invasion. This time, we thought, this building is about heritage and it’s completely white; how can we break away from those two qualities, and who better than Manish to break stereotypes?” says Giulia Ambrogi, festival curator and co-founder of the St+art India Foundation.
For Arora, the theme of love seems to have become a constant lately. His Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear collection, which showed at Paris in September, is titled Ready To Love. His first perfume, to be launched next year in partnership with UK-based Designer Parfums, is also called Ready To Love. “When I do something, I like to use one singular concept. Whether it’s art or fashion or windows for a store or collaborations with brands, I like to keep a consistent message. Maybe I’m telling the world that I want to be in love, and I’m trying to spread that message through different forms of art,” says Arora.