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First Indian and black African enter fashion’s elite club

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Paris: Rahul Mishra and Imane Ayissi made history Thursday by becoming the first Indian and black African designers to show their clothes on the elite Paris haute couture catwalk.

Only a little more than a dozen of the world’s most prestigious luxury labels — including Dior, Chanel and Givenchy — have a right to call their clothes haute couture.

All the clothes must be handmade — and go on to sell for tens of thousands of euros (dollars) to some of the richest and most famous women in the world.

Mishra, an advocate of ethical “slow fashion” who blames mechanisation for much of the world’s ills, said “it felt amazing and very surreal to be the first Indian to be chosen.”

“They see a great future for us — which will make us push ourselves even harder,” the 40-year-old told AFP after his debut show was cheered by fashionistas.

Both Mishra and Cameroon-born Ayissi, 51, are champions of traditional fabrics and techniques from their homelands and are famous for their classy lines.

“I am so proud that I can show my work and showcase real African fabrics and African heritage,” he told AFP backstage as celebrities, including the chic head of Unesco, Audrey Azoulay, congratulated him.

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Mishra broke through on the Paris ready-to-wear scene after winning the International Woolmark Prize in 2014, the top award that also launched the careers of such greats as Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.

The purity of his often white creations with their detailed but understated embroidery has won him many fans, including Vogue’s legendary critic Suzy Menkes.

The doyenne of fashion’s front row called him an Indian “national treasure”.

But this time, Mishra turned up the colour palette somewhat with dresses that subtly evoked the jungle paradises and pristine underwater world off the Maldives he worries that one day we might lose.

“I am very emotional about it. Sometimes it makes me cry. All our children should be growing up in a better world,” he added.

“When I take Aarna (his daughter) to the foothills of the Himalayas and the sky turns blue, she is so happy.

“Once, when she saw the River Ganges, she said: ‘Can you please clean it for us so can go for a swim?’”

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