Paris Haute Couture Week designer Rahul Mishra’s Ultimate Guide to Santorini Islands

The toast of Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week, year-after-year, designer Rahul Mishra offers a guide to the best of the Santorini islands in the Aegean Sea, which inspired his Paris collection.
Santorini islands
Santorini, with its undulating architecture and its flamboyant bougainvillaea trees, fired the imagination of designer Rahul Mishra enough to create a cutting-edge Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week 2021 collection. Photograph: Shutterstock.

India’s fashion maverick and artist Rahul Mishra’s Couture Fall 2021 collection, The Shape of Air, showcased virtually on July 7, 2021, with a fashion film at the online-offline edition of Paris Haute Couture Week 2021, was inspired by his travel to the Santorini Islands and its principal towns.

“I remember the questions asked by my daughter: ‘Why is the sky so blue? Why is the sea orange in colour — is there fire in it?’ She was so curious, and I wanted to capture that intangible feeling of curiosity in the collection,” says Mishra. “We spent days discovering Santorini on foot and absorbing details about the culture, the people and their lives and the natural beauty.”

Mishra has interpreted Santorini as an idea in the beautifully structured garments in this collection. The white houses, the blue dome-like roofs, the pink bougainvillaea, the brilliant sky are appliquéd and abstractly embroidered on the garments.

Rahul Mishra introduces us to the Santorini that moved and inspired him.

Stay: “We stayed at Imerovigli, a small little village in the middle of Santorini Island in a beautiful independent home by AirBnB.” The village is perched on a clifftop overlooking Santorini’s Caldera Islands. The village houses terraces of its sleek bars, fine-dining restaurants and plush boutique hotels, many situated in caves, besides several popular sunset viewing spots. Hiking trails lead past the ruined 13th-century Skaros Venetian Fortress, five fortified settlements, to the summit of landmark Skaros Rock and the blue-domed Theoskepasti Church on the rock’s flank.

Explore: “We used to walk till Firá and I enjoyed my walks with my four-year-old the most,” says Mishra. Firá is the modern capital of the Greek Aegean Island of Santorini. A traditional settlement, it has several cobblestone trails, fringed on one side by the sea, that take you across Caldera. “I remember the colour of the houses. At the time of sunset and sunrise, they are glazed with this beautiful golden glow. The blue skies and sea are of a perfect colour palette for one to dream and laze around. The lush pink bougainvillaea added so much to the white walls, predominantly the most popular colour of homes and shops all over Santorini.”

Mishra recalls the deep blue Aegean Sea, the blazing pink bougainvillaea, the volcanic sky colour and the peculiar white and blue architecture of the Greek coastal paradise; the garments in the collection mirrored the fluidity of the architecture and the landscape.

He talks eloquently about the buildings in Santorini, with their sense of lightness and their curved edges that are “shaped by the wind”. Embroidered in clusters on the swirling appliquéd garments are the unmistakable buildings and the unique cityscape.

Mishra’s family vacay was spent exploring the three villages of Firá, Imerovigli and Oia, a spectacular town perched on the crescent-shaped clifftop of the caldera. “At every corner, there are abundant hidden places, nooks and corners, and the food is always so fresh and delightful. The little souvenir shops are a treat to the eyes. On one of the evenings, we set out to Oia to enjoy the famous sunset. The sea seemed unending, the water was golden and shimmering, and the windmill just at the edge of the cliff resembled my childhood memories of drawing this picturesque water, boat, windmill and setting golden hour sun.”

Eat: “We indulged in some delicious Greek food. There is a lovely bakery in Firá called Svoronos, which serves up the best baklava and pies.” This family-run business has been baking and selling baklava in Thira since 1896. It also serves amazing spinach and cheese pies.

“When we first arrived at Imerovigli, we hopped into this beautiful restaurant called Avocado for dinner,” recalls Mishra. “It was situated just next door to the home we stayed in for good seven days.” This cosy restaurant offers a delicious menu of Greek dishes, seafood, meat, pasta and vegetarian options. My memories are so beautiful of our family trip that I wish to go back there again,” he says.

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