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India's Manish Arora puts the fantasy back into fashion

By Laura Allsop for CNN
  • Mumbai-born Manish Arora is India's best-known fashion designer
  • Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, M.I.A and Beth Ditto have all been seen wearing his designs
  • Uses traditional Indian craft techniques to get a modern, edgy look
  • Arora: "The Manish Arora-wearer can go out in the crowd and not mind being noticed"

(CNN) -- He's dressed Katy Perry in an outfit shaped like a merry-go-round and Rihanna in a spiky futuristic bodysuit; outrageous Lady Gaga is fan, as is singer M.I.A.

Hot designer Manish Arora's use of vibrant colors, irreverent designs and intricate embellishment have made him the go-to guy for celebrities who want to make a sartorial statement.

India's best-known fashion export is also pretty popular on the catwalk: His lastest collection, bursting with color and decoration, drew applause from audiences at Paris Fashion Week recently.

"I always think that you should wear vibrant clothing because for me, fashion is all about being happy and wearing colorful clothes that bring the style out in people," Arora told CNN.

Futuristic shoulder-plates and intricate, jeweled leg ornaments are also part of his latest collection, alongside sequined dresses with color-drenched images of Miami beach scenes printed across them.

The ideal Manish Arora wearer is someone who can go out in the crowd and not mind being noticed
--Designer Manish Arora

Baroque style was the main creative inspiration for the current Spring/Summer 2011 collection, which debuted last week in Paris, while paintings by Hiroshi Nagai provided the inspiration for dresses bearing images of palm trees and sunsets.

Arora was introduced to the work of Nagai, who painted beach scenes in Miami in the late 1960s, whilst in Tokyo and contacted him about a collaboration.

As for the Baroque elements of the show, the idea to explore the style for his collection occurred to him while he was in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

"I went to see some of the famous paintings in the Hermitage and would see how they used pastel colors and metallic gold," he told CNN.

"That was really exciting for me and I took it from there, the idea of a pastel color with really shiny embellished gold on top of it. So that, in combination with Hiroshi Nagai, was the whole idea for the show," he said.

Mumbai-born Arora became the first Indian designer to ever show a collection at Paris Fashion Week, the most prestigious event on the fashion calendar, in 2007.

Collaborations with sportswear brand Reebok and cosmetics manufacturers MAC, have brought his colorful sensibility to a wider public. Arora has since gone on to open 75 stores internationally.

His flamboyant and theatrical designs draw frequently on his Indian heritage, using traditional craft methods like embroidery, applique and beading.

His creative influences, though, are far-ranging and past collections have been inspired by themes as diverse as the circus and the battlefield.

A signature outfit from the Autumn/Winter 2009 collection, for example, featured enormous sprouting wings and talons, while a dress from the Spring/Summer collection of the same year had a carousel built into the skirt.

With such out-there designs, the typical Manish Arora woman is not the shy, retiring type.

"I always say, the Manish Arora-wearer is someone who can go out in the crowd and not mind being noticed," he said.

With his business going from strength to strength and his collections getting rapturous reviews, the future continues to look bright for this color-intense designer.

As for whether he would like to expand into making haute couture collections, he said: "My clothes, even though they are pret-a-porter, are really couture in the sense that they are all hand-made, and special, because they are made in India where I work."