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  • Fabric of India Exhibition at the V&A

    At OKA, we have always been enticed by Indian textiles. Many items in our collection are Indian-inspired, from our paisley print Shambhala Cushion Covers to our ikat print range - and there's no need to even mention our extensive elephant collection.



    India has been hand-making textiles for at least 6000 years. Throughout their history, material has played a large part in displaying wealth, power and religious devotion.



    ‘The Fabric of India’ is the first exhibition that really investigates the intrinsic world of hand-made textiles from India. Curated by Rosemary Crill and Divia Patel and designed by Gitta Geschwendtner, it is the highlight of the V&A’s India Festival. You walk into the exhibition and are immediately greeted by a beautiful ikat sari created by the renowned fashion designers David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore, the founders of Abraham & Thakore. I managed to grab a few minutes with David and Rakesh and they talked me through their creation. 




    “Ikat for us is one of the most extraordinary techniques for creating surface patterns,” David Abraham told me. “It is just so elaborate because you dye the threads and then you weave the patterns. It is incredibly geometric and mathematical, it is almost a scientific process. The fact that we still make ikat patterns and that it is commercially viable is just fantastic. It is a real luxury.”


    Rakesh Thakore explained how long the ikat process takes, “the weaver would weave 1 ½ to 2 metres a day. It takes a particularly long time if they are using the double ikat method, like with our sari. We only made four saris in this pattern and it took us about three months to make them. It’s really very slow.”



    Paisley print is a large feature throughout the exhibition. I spoke to David Abraham about the celebrated print. “I love paisley, it is iconic. It’s what everyone associates with India.”



    The whole exhibition is mesmerising, you really get a sense of how incredibly labour intensive it is to create such exquisite fabrics. I was particularly wowed by Tipu’s tent, it is vast and has a mystical allure.  Gazing at the tent, whilst seductive Indian music floods the room, you are transported to a magical, mysterious world. The tent was originally used by Tipu Sultan (1725-1750), a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. Tents such as these would have been used as moveable palaces, during pleasure trips, hunting expeditions, as well as on military campaigns.




    The vast wall hanging (below) depicts a  parade of people and elephants, in rich and warm tones. It was designed to cover a whole room (17 metres in length) and originated from rural Gujarat. However, it was discovered abandoned on a pavement outside a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, by Jerome Burns, an art appraiser. 




    Another piece that particularly intrigued me was this border for a dress. It is made from cotton muslin but what I found particularly intriguing is the embellishments, they are the green wing cases of the jewel beetle (buprestidae).



    The V&A have managed to encapsulate part of the charm of India and India’s history throughout these rooms, it is a delight to visit.  

    The Fabric of India runs from the 3rd October 2015 – 10th January 2016.  


    Take a peek at some Indian inspired OKA items here.