At a preview of the V&A’s new Fabric of India exhibition on Wednesday I was fortunate enough to indulge in clothing and culture. Clothing has the ability to indicate so much more than fashion and trends. The handmade textiles of India are a means of also exploring economic development, religion, politics, and geography to name a few. This beautiful exhibition is a window into the depth and beauty of India. Dynamic and multifaceted, The Fabric Of India tells a story through textiles from the ancient 3rd century to the contemporary 21st century.
Two highlights for me included the role of Indian spun khadi cotton and the focus on the extraordinary, contemporary fashion that India produces including work by Manish Arora, Sabyasachi Mukerjee and Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla.
Fabric and freedom are two interlinked concepts which the V&A brilliantly includes. In 1921 Indian nationalists began to adopt khadi cloth as a symbol of resistance against British exploitation. Mohatma Gandhi’s independence movement encouraged Indian nationals to spin and wear home grown khadi cotton in order to become a self-sustaining country once again. India gained independence on August 15th 1947 and khadi remains a symbol of national pride today.
The focus on Manish Arora is enlightening. The breadth of techniques used by this genius man demonstrate the global luxury reputation of his brand. The exhibition’s direct focus on his team of craftsmen definitely justifies the reputation and price of his clothing. Manish Arora epitomises the strengths of modern in India.
Sabyasachi Mukherjee is currently one of India’s most sought after designers. His work brings together many traditional techniques. He uses layers of hand-woven antique and new fabrics with intricate embroidery. Following the popularity of Sabyasachi, there is a vast imitation market where lower quality garments are made available to all levels of society.
The Bollywood film Devdas had the most expensive film wardrobe of its time. This lehnga was created by Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla for actress Madhuri Dixit. Due to its intricacy and weight the garment was only worn for promotional photos instead of being used for the many famous dance scenes.
These three designers and the importance of khadi are just an insight into the complexity of this exhibition. It was an absolute pleasure to get lost in its opulence and multiplicty.
The Fabric of India exhibition opened to the public yesterday. You can find details for it here.