What do Tipu Sultan’s tent dating back to the 18th century, a Rajesh Pratap Singh jacket, a wall hanging from the 20th century and jamdaani pieces from Aneeth Arora’s collection all have in common? They will be displayed at an exhibition
titled “The Fabric of India” at the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London from September 26 2015-January 10 2016.
For almost three years now, a few hand-picked Indian designers have been working on this display after they were contacted by the curator of the museum. A recently released book, titled India: Contemporary Design, by curator Divia Patel, is a prelude to the exhibition, and mentions the history, journey and evolution of design in the country. “For a few years now, the team has been in touch with me. Apart from it being a great opportunity for me as designer, it’s also a very good way to spread awareness about Indian textiles and design across the world,” says Arora.
Kolkata designer Kallol Datta, who has also been chosen to be a part of the exhibition, agrees with Arora and says that since contemporary Indian fashion and design hasn’t been documented much in the past, this becomes an important exhibition. “I am more into prints and pattern cutting, not so much into textiles, which is the central point of the exhibit at V&A. It’s a fine inclusion and it makes me aware of the wide scope that my label has,” says Datta.
Designs by Abraham & Thakore, Manish Arora and Rahul Mishra, among others, will also be part of the display. “V&A has arguably one of the finest textile collections in the world, and this time the focus is on India. It’s important that the India interest currently being generated worldwide, is also supported in the field of art and textile,” says Pratap Singh. The pieces selected for display from his archives are “a gamchcha jacket from his 2009 menswear collection and another one which is a take on Ajrak printing”. Patel, who is currently in India promoting the book, spent three years researching the topic, visiting designers in the country, going through their archives and and putting the exhibit together. Tight-lipped about the exhibition, Patel says, “We have chosen designers because of their different approaches to ‘handmade’. We will reveal more in February.”