If the iconoclastic Josephine Baker had been alive today, it might have been her gracing the front row at Manish Arora’s Summer 14 show, instead of musical sensation Bishi – also the star of Arora’s short film to be presented tonight during A Shaded View on Film Festival. And if Baz Luhrman had known what was good for him, he’d have asked the Indian designer to do the costumes for Gatsby because /this/ is what the 1920s must have truly felt like. “I love that decade, people were having fun in those days,” stated Arora. Certainly, the swinging, leg-baring movement of asymmetric wrap skirts, pleated dresses, and beaded hems transcribed this mood perfectly. And in paying homage to a decade of excess and entertainment through streetwear, Arora recaptured the spirit of freedom that set women like Baker apart.
M.I.A.’s lyrics about “[being] a free country but it now feels like a chicken factory” perfectly sum up the feeling that pushes youth forward into electrifying parties, where Manish Arora’s streetwear-clad cute bad girls will dance the nights away. “I love going to raves, I’m a Goa child!” he exclaimed, and the fast-paced accumulation of fluorescent colors coupled with the new-to-him knits and French terry had hedonistic appeal. The subtle geometric arrangements of lipsticks and other artifacts recalled how elaborate Art Deco show decors were. But even if she has a backpack, his woman is a consummate sophisticate: those precise pleats and scoop backs swing both ways: appropriate at lunchtime and come party time.
The only respite from the acid house could be found in large washes of unadorned color and the Vasarely prints, recalling, well, café bathrooms in Paris and de-rigueur geometric period patterns. There is a definite increase in Arora’s focus, and at the same time, an increasing amount of restraint, as evidenced in the white spaces that pace prints, or flash a flicker of flesh between beaded rows. In knowing when to step back, the designer showed his growth and the styling highlighted how plugged in he is with today’s stylistic mores. It was hard to dismiss his work before, but now, it’s downright impossible. “She’s bad, but we love her,” he grinned as parting, as a model shimmied by with her platinum wig. But Manish Arora makes it feel so good.