It all depends on when you stumble upon this article. But if it is sometime before 21 February, Indian designer Rahul Mishra will be biting his nails one way or the other. On 21 February, he would either be spinning backstage in restless excitement as one of the finalists for the International Woolmark Prize, a contest that will take place, that day, at the Milan Fashion Week. Or, he would be spinning in quizzical analysis to understand the results threadbare: whether he wins or not.

Mishra’s six-piece capsule collection uses Merino wool (a condition laid down for the contest by the The Woolmark Company) woven in the Chanderi tradition with zardozi embroidery imaginatively implemented in wool by craftsmen of Kolkata. “Invoking participation from multiple weavers and rural craftsmen to create luxurious but easy couture instead of making my craft exclusivist is the purpose of this project," says Mishra. He has been prone, since his student days, to serve complex recipes of ethical responsibility through his fashion.

Most designers who work with wool create at least some pieces that can be used as top layers and give a cocooning outerwear feel. But Mishra has refrained from that. His jackets, slim trousers, inner dresses, jacket-dresses are feminine, delicate and trans-seasonal—by his own admission too. He wants to shear away the predictability knitted into the use of wool and make it July-friendly as much as February-worthy. In fashion terms, these garments are versatile, instead of being limited to Autumn/Winter.

Having followed Mishra’s work from his debut in 2006, I am curious to see where he stands among other global finalists. And if his non-ethnic subtle collection with functional, easy-to-produce garments that use wool innovatively yet uphold old Indian traditions of weaving, embroidery and promise employment to rural craftsmen finds a resonance.

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