Meet fashion’s most exotic maximalist, the designer whose stunning embellishments and exquisite embroideries are devoured by politicians, political wives, stars, and socialites alike. Misha Kaura answers rapid fire questions, below.

Describe Misha Kaura. “I’m energetic, optimistic, stylishly nerdy, and pragmatically idealistic.”

Have you always been interested in aesthetics? “Yes, I have always been very interested in aesthetics. As a young girl, starting from age 3, I used to obsessively watch the Home Shopping Network and I was transfixed with the luxury jewelry, Proactiv and Nads adverts. I remember thinking at like age 4 that I wanted to do something in business, to be one of the people on television giving people these transformations from drabtastic to fabulous. The ads influenced me as much as Anne of Green Gables and Vogue did. We had no television other than PBS and HSN because my family is very traditional and used to ban any television or electronics. We were supposed to sit around and read our prayer books, but I was always rebellious. Whenever they were off at dinner parties and my nanny wasn’t around, I used to sneak into their master bedroom and turn on HSN, sometimes flip through my Mom’s fashion magazines. It was a gateway into an entirely new world: a shiny, consumer world. This whole idea of coming up with an idea to make people look better, seeing it through to creation, and then selling it was always very interesting to me. I used to encourage my parents to go out to more Indian weddings just so I could watch HSN for hours. I learned way more from HSN than I ever did in school because I learned about life in general, how to help women have these swan-like transformations, the importance of making products that sell out. I always wanted to get into the aesthetics business to make postpartum women look better because they have such serious self esteem losses the second they have children. Initially, I thought that would mean a career in dermatology or plastic surgery focused on aesthetics, until I discovered fashion which is a much more efficient way of making people feel better about themselves. In a weird way, all the science and engineering I studied in undergrad has come in handy, because I have a strong base in multiple disciplines that I’m able to combine in unique ways. Best of all, I am living my childhood dream right now because I get to spend my entire day coming up with designs to make women look amazing. I mean, I’m in fashion to share the vision and the dream of exotic India, but I’m also in fashion to make people look good. People are putting their trust in me as their designer and my only job is to make them look smoking hot.”

Why do you love fashion? “I love fashion because it’s the perfect combination of science, commerce, and creativity, and it plays perfectly to all of my strengths and true passions. Frankly, I think the future is really at the intersection of personalized medicine and personalized fashion—taking AI and applying it to match design to complexion and body shape, taking data to transform how women shop. There are way more intellectually exciting things going on in high fashion than in academic medicine, and I can make a much bigger impact in fashion. At the end of the day, I want to look back on my life and be proud that I’m the only designer who has been able to merge different disciplines to make 75 year old women with muffin tops and urinary incontinence from pelvic floor disruption or fistulas look hot and be super tight with minimal effort. Nobody else but me is capable of doing that. God gave me these gifts in order to use them. So, I have several offerings in the works, in addition to my label, that will help me see out this vision of doing rapid transformations efficiently and effectively. I see myself applying design and design strategy to other disciplines in the years to come.”

Where do you think your interest in such intricate embroideries come from? “In spite of being of royal lineage that supported the Raj, my paternal grandmother was a rebellious teenager who dropped out of her Swiss finishing school to march alongside Nehru during the fight for independence. She supported herself on the road by crafting garments and selling her embroideries; totally unheard of at a time when Indian women were literally just supposed to cook well and be married. As a young girl, starting from age 3, she used to regale me with her stories and adventures, while teaching me the same embroideries that have been in my family for generations. Though I didn’t start sewing until age 25, I’ve always been an adept embroiderer, and it remains one of my all-time favorite past-times. I try to include as many embroideries as I can with each ready-to-wear collection, and go all-out with haute couture embroidery—all of which originated in India, by the way, by my ancestors—with my made to measure line. It’s so much fun for me to create textile designs that it doesn’t even feel like work, whereas everything about anatomy and blood in general was so terrifying that I completely lost interest in practicing medicine. I’m completely in my element when I see fabric and I create something that never existed previously. I love it so much that I often lose track of time. Sometimes I miss my grandmother a lot; her death was really hard on me and is one of the reasons I decided to chase my own dream in life. I know she’s still with me, though. She’s in Heaven and I know she’s looking out for me and is proud of the type of woman I’m becoming, someone exactly like her.”

Some of your dresses are a bit out-there, while others are very conservative. Why the balance? “I dress women for their entire day, as opposed just special occasions. And I also try to remain an inclusive label, which means we produce several pieces each season specifically for modest-dressing women in the Middle East. I feel like high fashion has to be for everyone, and that means making clothes that are inclusive of women from differing backgrounds. I am an observant person of faith, with a strong testimony, and I believe in modest dress as a result of my views, but I also make pieces for secular people who want to show a hint of skin but not too much. Regardless of someone’s background, I think fashion is the most profound instrument women and girls have for showing their unique personality in an easy to identify format. I think that modesty can be particularly alluring in this day and age, particularly in a world where a lot of people are forgetting their values and how they were raised in pursuit of getting likes on Instagram. Plus, older women with arm wrinkles look better in sleeves, A-line skirts that hide irregularities, and high necks. So, it goes both ways. I make women stand out through the fabric and embellishments, not skin. You have to leave something to the imagination.”

Where did this fascination with older women come from? “I spent most of my college years volunteering at the opera and serving on the various young adults committees, and I remember seeing these older women at parties. It did and it still does kill me when I see how crestfallen older women look when all eyes turn to someone younger; you can just feel how hurt they are by the slight even though they’d never admit it. People care. I remember one night, I was just wrapping up after hours of hard work organizing one of our fundraising galas, and went to the powder room to adjust my lipstick. This older woman was sobbing because she spent like 5 hours getting ready and her husband spent the entire evening flirting with other women, looking around the room, not even complimenting her for her hard work getting dressed up for him. She told me that it was a shell shock life shift for her after 50. It affected me deeply and I resolved then that I would do something to help women like her through fashion, to give those like her non-dowdy formal dress options. I can empathize a lot with the whole feeling invisible phenomenon because I had braces until 21 and am a super late bloomer; mascara and A-line dresses completely changed my life and gave me self confidence I never had before. So I understand both sides, being ignored and now being bombarded with attention. I get tremendous satisfaction from hearing my 40, 50, 60, 70 something clientele tell me they were the belle of the ball thanks to a sparkly gown I made them. It’s so gratifying. It’s so easy to be a swan with every option on the table, but after you’re in your 40s, looking good takes a lot of effort. I want to make it easier for women to keep looking good in as efficient a manner as possible. I want to create a world where 80 year old women can slay instead of being seen negatively. They’re still hot, they’re still relevant, and I care a lot about them. I make dresses for people in a broader age demographic, as well, but it’s much more gratifying taking a 70-year old client who went gray, putting her in a pretty dress, and then calling up my hair stylist friend to dye her hair. Like the look of pure joy they get when they see themselves in front of the mirror is my drug—I live for these magic moments.”

Any hints or previews about what we can expect for Spring Summer 2019? “Lots of pink and peach.”

Is there a symbol that would represent you? “The taller version of Edna Mode with contacts and longer hair.”

Do you have a favorite movie? “Yes! “Holiday” featuring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. I feel like life is supposed to be a grand adventure, not this humdrum life where you just go through the motions and live out other people’s dreams. You have to grab life by the horns and make things happen for yourself. My personality is very similar to Katharine Hepburn, I think; I’m feisty, adventurous, traditional in some ways, and non-conventional in other ways.”

What’s your favorite book? The Nicomachean Ethics’ by Aristotle. Studying philosophy completely changed my life and taught me that everything in life is a series of choices. Aristotle teaches us that the best way to live life is intentionally with the end in mind, to make good choices so we look back on our lives and say that we did what we were here to do. I think everyone has a unique life mission. Aristotle was put here to share wisdom. I was put here to make people and environments look good.”

Who’s your favorite artist? “Too many to list, because I’m constantly inspired by artwork and art museums. I feel like I go through these phases of being obsessed with Varma before getting into Monet again! I feel like looking at art helps me transport into the feelings and emotions of a particular time period much more than losing myself in a book—which happens often, actually—and it’s my favorite way to time travel. I especially love looking at what subjects in artwork are wearing, and how what they’re wearing reflects on the historical and cultural events in a particular time period.”

Why do you only wear embroidered dresses? “Because I’m addicted to them! I like to think of myself as the best ambassador of my brand, haha. It’s the main reason I always try to have a few cult affordable pieces in each collection because my work is for more than adornment: it’s for collecting!”

What’s the main advantage of dressing according to scientific principles? “In short, it makes women look stunningly better with less effort because there is a science to style. Color theory and evolutionary mate choice theory are major factors that shape whether someone looks hot or not. For example, the outfit has to suit one’s body shape and complexion, which seems obvious but a lot of stylists and people in general don’t fully understand this. I recently had a celebrity client with an autumn-warm complexion coming to me wanting to wear navy, and I had to tell her that I refuse to make a dress in that color for her because it would be unethical and just wash her out. I told her that a turquoise dress would better suit her complexion, and she put her faith in me; end result, she looked amazing at her most recent party. It’s not hard in theory—take the basic building blocks, tweak it for personality, filter it through seasonal colors, select base pieces, select accessories, and then select overcoat—but it’s hard in terms of applying it to every facet of design, which is why I’m the only one doing it. It’s a scientific process. Someone who has a romantic style, a winter complexion, and a pear shape is going to have a different set of options than someone who comes to me and they have a sleek glam style, a summer complexion, and an hourglass shape. Everything has to be customized for the individual client. I do a lot of surveys and measurements because I take my work very seriously, and if people are investing in me, the least I can do is make sure they get a dress so perfect that they can wear it again and ideally pass it on to their granddaughter one day. That is why, on the design side, I incorporate research on everything from color theory to evolutionary mate choice theory to behavioral economics to inform each design. I do mood boards, and all of that, because I was forced to do this by my professors in design school, but I’m mostly interested in cataloging what colors and shapes suit different types of women so my work has further applications for AI and academia down the line. I’m a big picture person.”

What are your thoughts on how fashion is perceived? “I think the biggest problem is that people in fashion have very low self esteem. The general public sees fictional movies like “The Devil Wears Prada,” decides that the entire industry must be “shallow” and “airy,” and then writes off the entire profession. It’s a shame, because there are a lot of smart women with high-flying careers who just do not invest into their appearance at all when it’s the only thing that matters in terms of personal life and general outlook. Whenever I see someone who is single, Ivy educated, and in their 30s, I automatically know this is someone who studied hard but didn’t invest in her appearance; so girls who are less educated and less internally beautiful are getting the guys they want, and it’s because of fashion and beauty choices. Fashionistas look better, and they are what is the 10/10 gold standard. So I am kind of the go-between for these supersmart women to transform themselves, and I am not a one stop shop; I tell them and encourage them to go to other designers as well because I only do one specific type of look, the Maharani Look. Variety in external physical appearance is the single biggest predictor of marital satisfaction. Shopping is important because dressing in a visual variety format is what keeps marriages together, much more than any other variable identified by National Bureau of Economic Research papers–more than cooking ability, college education, and partner status combined. I did research under Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker in college, where I created a model for predicting marital stability, isolating over 291 variables; I graduated summa. The point is that men have an inborn need for variety and the only way to satisfy that in a monogamous relationship is by changing style on a daily basis, hair color every two years, etc. So if you want to look sexy for a day, you wear Versace. If you want to be a nerdy guy’s dream girl, you wear Prabal Gurung. If you want to be the sporty jetsetter, you wear Michael Kors. If you want to be the glamorous girl the paparazzi loves, you wear Tom Ford. And if you want to look like an Indian princess, you wear Misha Kaura. It’s about brand DNA. It’s fine to dress in all black skirt suits or conservatively at the office—that is smart, rewear those clothes because they’re investment pieces—but in personal life, variety is so key. The level of visual-spatial analysis that people in fashion engage in shows you how intellectual and deep the field is; it’s the only subject that merges the objective with the subjective. In no other discipline do you get the rigor alongside the creativity. It’s high time people in the industry start developing some self esteem, start standing up for their chosen profession to people in other fields, and start explaining to the rest of the world how important it is to have visual variety in the wardrobe.”

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