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Paris Fashion Week: Tuzki is Manish Arora’s new showstopper

Designer Manish Arora brings Turner's popular rabbit toon Tuzki to haute couture at the Paris Fashion Week

Models wearing creations for Manish Arora’s ready-to-wear fall/winter 2018/2019 collection at Paris Fashion Week on Thursday. Photo: AP
Models wearing creations for Manish Arora’s ready-to-wear fall/winter 2018/2019 collection at Paris Fashion Week on Thursday. Photo: AP

Indian fashion designer Manish Arora, in collaboration with media conglomerate Turner International Ltd, launched an exclusive apparel collection inspired by Tuzki, a popular rabbit toon, at the Paris Fashion Week on Thursday.

Tuzki (pronounced Tuts-ki) was created in 2006 by then 21-year-old Beijing illustrator Momo Wang. It was acquired by Turner in 2008. Over the years, it became an internet sensation in China and its popularity has resulted in fan clubs, restaurants, games, and more in that country. Tuzki’s emoji, GIFs, animations and stickers are available on various platforms from social media networks to messenger services.

Tuzki’s dance moves and popularity among millennials apart, what’s exceptional is its rise in the global market. It is very rare to see a Chinese brand being successful overseas, especially in the Western market.

Arora is the only Indian fashion designer who has been a regular at the mecca of fashion weeks since his debut in 2007. His Fall-Winter collection this time is inspired by “the pristine spirituality, beliefs and uniformity of Zen," fashion journal quoted Arora as saying. “We’ve derived our stories from the most significant elements of Japanese culture like the koi fish, sakura sand art and other stories which are inspired from a more younger perspective, like cloud monster, which is a character from a bag series called “Boogiebombs" and a popular illustrated bunny character called Tuzki. There’s an eclectic mix of moods in the entire collection and a unique spectrum of colours that we have worked with."

He was not available for a comment before the show.

The Tuzki collection features t-shirts, dresses, boots and accessories such as bags, backpacks, pouches and clutch bags. The collection in multiple hues of orange and with a lot of bling is a combination of the toon’s quirky characters and Arora’s vibrant craftsmanship and will be available for sale across Manish Arora Fashion stores in China before coming to the Indian market later this year.

“Tuzki is not a worldwide hit yet but has the potential," said Hoito Lee, creative director at Turner China, over the phone from Paris. “Since Tuzki can’t speak, it has the advantage to transcend the boundaries of language. Right now, it is big in South Asia, Japan and the US. With the Paris Fashion Week, we are entering the European market. And I can see there is interest."

The rabbit has featured on everything from pencil boxes to jewellery and bed linen in China. “Chinese consumers have a natural connection with Tuzki," says Lee. The rabbit has become the default emoticon on WeChat messenger app, the most popular messaging service in China, and piggybacked on the success to grow overseas.

“According to our in-house data, 15 million people are using the Tuzki emoticon every day," says Lee.

It has been used in ad campaigns by companies such as Motorola and KFC and featured in animation shorts. And the rabbit is set to star in its own 3D movie with Tencent Pictures in 2019 or 2020.

It was natural to collaborate with Arora, says Lee. “He has worked with clients such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna and he tells me that he loves the way Tuzki moves. So it was a natural choice. We wanted to be in the fashion industry and in more markets and Manish said he wanted to do something special with Tuzki."

Arora’s designs are psychedelic, sometimes even over the top. He doesn’t mind people getting noticed in his clothes. He actually loves the attention, good or bad. Known for his obsession with overstated colours, especially gold and pink, wacky prints and unconventional embellishments, he has made Paris his second home since he started showing in the French capital in 2007.

In 2016, he became the first Indian fashion designer to receive the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, the highest award bestowed by France, in recognition of his contribution to international fashion.

After cementing his space in Europe, Arora expanded his eponymous label in the China market. The first two stores came up in Shanghai and Suzhou in December 2017. There are plans for three more stores this year.

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