By Rahul Mishra
The sparkling lights of the city merge into dawn, and the morning light streaming into my window, which looks out to the Eiffel Tower, announces the arrival of the big day: it’s finally here — our first ever showing in Paris. There are mixed emotions — anxiety, excitement — and a million thoughts cross my mind. There’s a build-up of anticipation as we count the hours to 3.00pm.
As a ritual, before every showing, I visit a Ganesha temple to seek the blessings of the lord. In Mumbai, it was always Siddhivinayak. But here, in a foreign land, I am clueless. Still, I take a chance with Google — ‘temple in Paris’ — and voilà, there is, indeed, one! I check with Bryan, and ask him to take me there sometime later in the day, before the show.
We are at the PR office; we need to transport the collection from here to the venue. And yes, print the final cue sheet for the show — 300 of them! Unlike the spirit of jugaad in India, in Paris, we have to wait until 11.00am when shops open, to get our work done. Lucky Parisians, who work their limited hours!
I receive an emotional message from Ramesh Menon (my friend, who’s come all the way to Paris to help us). He’s been at Palais de Tokyo since 8.00am to work with light and sound engineers. The message instantly lifts our spirits. It reads: “The venue is getting set up, played the soundtrack…it’s surreal…getting goosebumps hearing it in the ambience…it brings tears. Get ready for a rocking show!!”
We are parked below the building, and attempt to talk to security using sign language; we’re trying to figure out which big service elevator to take to get to the second floor of the building, to get backstage. It overlooks the Eiffel Tower on one side.
The backstage area has dappled light filtering down from the sunroof. It’s a beautiful morning. I can sense the positivity — smiling faces welcoming us. The make-up team from M.A.C is here, and hair experts from Carita. The final round of look tests is in progress, with some changes I wanted after the initial tests a day prior.
I move past the guys in-charge of security, and enter the main show area. The lights are down, with only some spots lit up; they warmth of them mellows the nip in the air somewhat. As I stare at the ramp, the benches, all the sounds fade out, and I am lost in a trance.
The sound and light check is done, the models stream in and head straight to make-up and hair. The show music comes on. And as the first few seconds roll in, I can see Divya (his wife), standing far away, tears in her eyes. I have goosebumps. This is the moment we’ve always dreamt of. And here I am, living that dream!
After a few minutes of discussion with Marie, our production head, and a final check on the show opening and end, and a music, light and sound test, I head backstage. It’s 11.45, and I am starving, especially after I see the spread of sandwiches, cakes, fruits, yoghurt, coffee and croissants. I can’t eat anything though; I have to head to the temple.
As we zip past the unusually busy roads of central Paris, I realise we’re heading towards the north of the city. We arrive at this tiny little arrangement, which leads us to the main shrine. The special darshan was enough; I feel connected to the energy, and as we head back to the hotel to change, it’s already 12.45pm.
We get a message from our PR manager; the Miu Miu show has started on time, an arm’s distance from Palais de Tokyo — hence the congestion in traffic.
We have to rush our own preparations. At a point closer to the venue, we jump out of the car and start walking — or running; it seems to be the quicker option. There were rehearsals and ironing of clothes to be supervised; we’re slightly late, but thankfully, three friends from India have joined us to cheer from the front row. Instead, they take charge of the areas and are my extended arms.
I climb up the stairs of Palais de Tokyo; the venue is teeming with action. There’s madness all around and everything is slowly falling into place. I rush backstage.
The guests will be seated soon and I have some time backstage for a final check.
Make-up. Done. Hair. Set. Creases. Gone. Shoes. Strapped on.
The clock strikes 3.00pm, and I have butterflies. The ambient music comes on. We’re told the Miu Miu show has ended and we should wait for guests to come in from there. Models get into their first change.
The area is packed. Backstage, the girls have queued up. As the show starts, I am in the zone. The strains of music — the music I’ve been listening to on repeat while sketching garments these past few months — appear to me in vignette and transcend into a mood. Twelve minutes down the line, I walk in to take a bow. I hear huge applause and congratulations. After the show, people make their way backstage to wish me. I see Imran Amed, founder and editor, The Business of Fashion. I am pulled aside to meet (fashion editor) Suzy Menkes. She tells me how she loved the collection and the string idea behind it. The Indian Ambassador stops me to congratulate me. And there are many in the crowd who come up to me and shake hands. I am surprised to find a few actually dressed in a Rahul Mishra.
It’s surreal. The show is over; it’s time to pack up and take with me a million memories that I shall cherish forever. I will return for the next season, to tell many more stories to the world — through fashion, art and craft.
Photographs: Ramesh Menon