The new Fabric of India exhibition at the V&A is a love letter to Indian craftsmanship. We caught up with co-curator Divia Patel to discuss the show and find out why she invited Finery to take part.
In an explosion of colour and texture, V&A’s landmark new retrospective Fabric of India lifts the lid on Indian textiles. Packed with sumptuous wall-hangings that beg to be touched, one-of-a-kind historical garments and breathtakingly contemporary pieces, Fabric of India is a feast for the senses, and we are honoured to be a part of it.
‘My love of Indian textiles stems back to my Mother,’ explains Divia Patel, co-curator of the show. ‘She had an eye for beautiful saris, the proper, hand-loomed kind. I still have them now. It’s her love of those particular saris that pushed me’ This passion permeates every inch of an exhibition that challenges preconceptions of what it means to be ‘made in India’.
The show tells the story of the region’s centuries-long romance with craftsmanship. It’s a tale told through unique historical artifacts, such as the enormous tent of Tipu Sultan, an astonishing portable fabric palace from the 18th Century, and contemporary fashion pieces by the likes of Manish Arora, Isabel Marant and your very own Finery.
The story of India is tightly interwoven into its textiles, from sacred cloths of the many religions practiced there, to the courtly dress and wall hangings of the sultans. From the role of locally-produced khadi cotton in the resistance movement, to the Indian designers showing there is more to contemporary Indian creativity than Bollywood. Divia explains, ‘You get a sense of Indian history and Indian culture through the textiles, and the craftsmanship is there right from the beginning. Then you see the videos of the processes and realise those same processes that existed historically are still present now.’ She continues, ‘we wanted to change people’s perceptions about Indian craft, that it didn’t come to an end in 19th century. How many people know that these skills still exist today? How many people know when they go down the highstreet that the inspiration, the design or the handcrafted element has come from India?’
It’s a story that spreads beyond India to the rest of the world too. As far back as the third century Indian textiles were prized all over the globe.
Immersed in the surface, texture, innovation and creativity of the pieces on show, it’s easy to see why Indian textiles have been prized for generations. And why, by those in the know, they remain highly sought after today. Divia explains, ‘we wanted to bring out the idea of Indian textiles as this major force throughout the world. The same craftspeople making the historical sacred textiles were making things for trade to all over the world, the Middle East, South East Asia, Europe, even Japan.’ Divia explains that it is ‘the adaptability that keeps Indian textiles going and keeps them relevant today.’
"It was important to us to include Finery because Finery brings Indian craftsmanship to a broader audience."
The show climaxes with example after envy-inducing example of Indian’s impact on contemporary fashion. As well as pieces from Isabel Marant, Manish Arora, Hermes and Finery you’ll find work by Prada, Azzedine Alaïa and Indian designers such as Rajesh Pratap Singh, Aziz and Suleman Khatri. Plus, from Finery, the sell-out embroidered organza dress from our debut collection. Divia enthuses, ‘We wanted to show how today’s designers are bringing Indian craftsmanship out. It was important to us to include Finery because where the more couture end can only be accessed by a handful of people, Finery brings Indian craftsmanship to a broader audience. Plus Finery is new and up-and-coming and that’s exciting and speaks to the future.’
Fabric of India is a sumptuous feast for the senses that will entrance lovers of textiles and fashion alike. Like Divia and us, you are sure to fall in love with Indian textiles and craftsmanship and see why at Finery we insist on making so many of our pieces in the region, working with with workshops and factories we have longstanding relationships with and that we know we can rely on to create fall-in-love, forever pieces.
The show reminded us why we first fell in love with Indian textiles and we hope you will leave as infatuated with Indian textiles and craft as we are.
Fabric of India runs at the V&A until January 10th 2016. More info
Photography by Phil Dunlop
Interview by Ruth Jamieson
Thanks to the Victoria and Albert museum