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Kallol Datta and Rimzim Dadu @ Fabric of India exhibition, V&A

Tuesday 21st October 2015

During the preview of Fabric of India exhibition @ V&A I spoke to the talented Kallol Datta and Rimzim Dadu about Indian Fashion and Textiles. It was great to hear their thoughts on the contemporary scene. I hope you enjoy the post : )

Kallol next to his provocative Suicide Print Sari

How did you get involved with the exhibition? And what are your thoughts on it?

RD: Divia one of the curators approached me (and other designers) in 2010 so they visited our studios, our archives, our techniques and they were really interested in what we were doing and it’s finally materialised here today. An exhibition like this is much needed because it documents the vast and great heritage of Indian textiles and shows it to a wider audience.

KD: Five years back the team from the V&A came over to India for an exploration trip, they came to the studio we had a chat, they looked through the archives and they kept coming back – for instance to fashion week. That’s how the relationship started. I think its a great exhibition and it’s nice how they’ve taken a slightly more academic route and I like that its been presented this way because you’d expect a lot of people would expect to see a stereotype of Indian fashion.

RimzimRimzim with her leather Ikat piece

Talking of stereotypes how would you describe contemporary Indian textiles/ fashion scene to someone who isn’t familar with it?

KD: I guess with India and its not just with fashion/textiles -it’s with every creative industry…every two hundred miles there’s a different state, the language differs, the way people look, the way they dress so for example Rimzim is Delhi based and I’m in Kalkota, so the crafts used by Kalkota designers is very different to Delhi designers and that makes it interesting because its very difficult to pin point and I think there are three /four of us exhibiting here that when we started off six/seven years back we all pretty much either studied abroad or had some work experience abroad and then came back so it was an exciting time for Indian Fashion- it was more contemporary, we were focusing on harnessing the now, our work was an immediate response to our environment and there was no need to self flagellate- that you know just because we are Indian we have to delve into Indian textiles so there’s not been a conscious decision to be this way it’s been more instinctive amongst my generation.

RD: Suddenly there is this great textile revolution in India. In the last couple of years everyone is appreciating things we have previously taken for granted so there is this revolution with people trying to revive crafts and textiles- like ‘save the weavers’ and it was something that we took for granted and it did die out in the middle but now there is more awareness. It’s thrilling to be a part of this new textile movement. For example this Ikat weave (referring to her piece in the exhibition) I have a team of traditional Ikat weavers but they are not used to weaving with leather so it’s something that I’ve had to teach and develop with them and in turn we are then creating something completely new.

Lovely video featuring Rimzim Dadu made by new stockist Indelust

What are your thoughts on the future of Indian fashion? do you think it will have more of a global prescence or with such a huge domestic audience there is no need to look to outward markets?

KD: We have 1 billion ppl to penetrate into their minds so that’s the priority and with a lot of us we stopped looking at the west or even the east as in Japan for success formulas. We are all trying to come up with our own levels of what success means to us and what makes us happy. All areas of the arts are evolving, there’s a great live music scene- original compostions, the contemporary arts scene has never been more exciting. We are still being shaped aesthetically by what’s around and we continue to push the stereotypes of Indian fashion.

Kallol’s last answer sums up the real shift in contemporary Indian Fashion. Designers like Kallol Datta, Rimzim Dadu, Rahul Mishra and Pero are all working in an organic way, getting influences by their heritage around them but at the same time are not dictated by them. They are not afraid of pushing earlier boundaries and coming up with something completely new and fresh. Rimzim’s leather Ikat is a perfect example. Using a traditional technique in a completely different way and for a non traditional garment. These designers know and respect the large, evolving, multi faceted audience at home and as you can see they are busy designing for them. I’m really glad that the Fabric of India has highlighted their work and I continue to enjoy watching and blogging about this exciting, dynamic, evolving industry.

For more info on the exhibition and to book tickets- V&A

As always the V&A host a series of accompanying talks & events alongside major exhibitions. I’m looking forward to attending their latest – V&A’s Fashion in Motion: ASHISH on Friday. Ashish will present a retrospective of womenswear and menswear from across the last decade. Tickets are free and limited and need to be booked in advance


Image Credit: Pics- The Asian Fashion Journal, Video- Indelust

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