I first found out about him while searching for inspiration at some point in late 2006, not too long after he made his debut at London Fall Fashion Week '05. At that time there were very few Google Image search results for him and his work; today it's like a beautiful avalanche of the embroidery of countless seamstresses on LSD.
Arora's first runway collection is far from his best but is still much more memorable than the majority of others ever conceived, in my not-so-humble opinion.
It's difficult to choose images to represent all of these ready-to-wear collections for this post because they really need to be seen in their entirety, but I've tried anyway. For this debut collection, though, you can have the video, because it's weird and psychedelic like the cameras are remote-controlled dragonflies hovering over the runway or it's actually underwater or something:
Even if you find this garish and awful, you have to admit that it is memorable and unique, the kind of thing that assaults the senses and slaps the shit out of everyone sitting there watching, in all black, trying to be super serious. Plus if you get to about 5:45 an audio clip from the super kitschy and awkward "Like a Virgin" rendition they did in the Moulin Rouge movie starts playing, lol. I mean, it makes perfect sense, though. "Call him the Baz Luhrmann of fashion", declare any number of fashion blog posts from around that time.
The subsequent Fall-Winter '06 ready to wear collection was quite fun and included but certainly wasn't limited to cute kitschy prints of London landmarks and Christmassy things like snow-covered pine trees and cabins. Arora also got a jump on or possibly even started the enormous felted statement necklace trend at this point. Other highlights included a ton of beautiful beading and an adorable combination of classic preppy Western looks and even some more traditional Indian flavour.
The Spring-Summer '07 collection was the first one I saw back when I was searching for inspiration for my overly-demanding high school studio art class in late 2006. It completely blew me away at the time and probably remains his most recogniseable to date. It's tear-jerkingly spectacular. Once again, I've tried to pick my favourites, but you really need to just Google the whole thing.
I actually constructed a mask with a giant butterfly half covering one eye and half coming off the side out into the air for that studio art class after I saw this, but it was of course a completely disappointing and juvenile attempt to emulate this greatness.
Anyone can see that 2007 was a turning point in his designs and maybe even the zenith of his creativity at the time this was originally written.
What I love about his work isn't just the creative vision and explosive rainbow palette, but the fine detail work and incredibly varied textilesy aspects. Much of his garment menagerie includes that aforementioned lush embroidery, beading, stones, feathers, and even three-dimensional geometry. It's really too bad that what's available for purchase from these designers is never anywhere near as innovative as what they put on the runway, unless you're an A-list celebrity.
So much geometry, heavy embroidery, latex, faces that look like circuit boards...
It's like Bollywood Blade Runner!
(god how did any of us survive that era of super low-res imagery, I'm dying inside)
Is that completely offensive? Oh well. It's definitely completely fabulous.
I'm writing off '08 slightly even though it still borders on superhuman because it was like a continuation of the line of thought of '07, just a bit less intense and more wearable. The spring collection is nice and jaunty and has an 80's-90's nostalgic appeal to it, as does the fall collection, which returned to the depths of outer-Bollywood-space. Actually, it reminds me more of the classic film Metropolis, but with all that luscious Indian embroidery, Mickey Mouse and gladiators. If only there were no such things as bad hallucinogenic trips and they were all more like this.
I personally found the Spring '09 collection kind of underwhelming, even more so when Katy Perry wore its crown jewel, the carousel dress. It's fitting that the collection was circus-themed, though; she just looks like a cheap circus performer most of the time anyway.
Gaga also wore a thick, possibly felt leotard-type thing from this set, making it, I think, the first one that captivated the world's pop tarts.
While the Fall '09 collection involved some impressively advanced clothing engineering - largely in the form of dramatic spikes that Lady Gaga favoured for quite a while - it, too, was a little underwhelming compared to the collections that came before it.
Luckily, Spring '10 saw the return of androids and yet more very impressive, three-dimensional avant garde clothing structures. They're the sorts of things that should be on display in museums, with people stopping and tilting their heads to admire their lines and movement. Rihanna actually wore a combination epaulette/harness hardware piece off one of the designs:
(and once again the fact that the pictures are still crappy because that was before everyone could be a professional photographer with a $900 iPhone makes me feel kind of nostalgic)
The later 2010 collection is very reminiscent of Atlantis, as was the passing trend at the time. It's too bad McQueen's epic vision of Plato's Atlantis and Sølve Sundsbø's The Girl from Atlantis had just beaten him to it. It's also too bad that this whole image ran its course. I mean, it kind of came back with the incredibly brief Tumblr spawn style called seapunk that accompanied vaporwave, but not really.
Last year I told myself I was going to do all ethereal green and blue bohemian looks with metallic and floral accessories for spring, but then I remembered I didn't have any money.
|The Girl From Atlantis|
Fall/Winter 2011 - some of which was still for sale on Arora's site when I first wrote this - was an interesting combination of jewel tones, dead tauntauns, cut-outs, shiny metal hardware and what I suspect are the supersized reproductive organs of various flowers. I really love it; it's got a bit of everything from past collections rolled into it without looking rehashed. In other words, he's refined his style to a science.
(Originally Published 3.1.12)