The first week of 2019 kicked off with Indian fashion making historical moves on, and off, the runway on heritage sites. The formidable collaboration of the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India, the Archaeological Survey Of India, the Ministry Of Culture and the Fashion Design Council Of India, created fashion history with Artisan Speak, a show that celebrated India’s majestic textile legacy at the Red Fort in New Delhi on January 5. The Red Fort grounds as a fashion runway was unimaginable, till it was the past Saturday. And, what a progressive first it was!
Headlined by designers Anita Dongre, Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Gaurang Shah, Rahul Mishra and Anju Modi, the ivory Sawan and Bhadon Pavilions, and the red sandstone Zafar Mahal made for a dramatic backdrop for the show. Artisan Speak turned a page in India’s history, transcendentally juxtaposing the regal era of yore with the immediate now. The show honoured six Padma Shri and seven Sant Kabir award winning master craftsmen, wherein the Union Minister Of Textiles, Smriti Irani, gave away Special Recognition Awards to the indomitable contributors to India’s textile sector. Craft Revivalist and Textile Conservationist Madhu Jain was recognised for her work with bamboo silk and the President of the Fashion Design Council Of India, Sunil Sethi, was awarded the honour for Promotion Of Handicraft and Textile Design, for his Made In India ideology even before it became fashionable and his relentless pursuit of elevating Indian crafts and the handloom industry in the domestic and foreign markets, working in close proximity with the Textile Ministry over the years. When Irani lauded his efforts during her speech on stage, Sethi turned uncharacteristically bashful for five seconds.
On January 7, Anamika Khanna showed her collection at the Artisan Speak show organised by the Fashion Design Council Of India for the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India at the legendary Currency Building founded in 1833 in Kolkata. It was a felicitous venue for Khanna’s show. Whilst most heritage buildings in Kolkata, the first seat of power of the British Empire, reflect Gothic styles of architecture, the Currency Building stood out in the city with its Italian style, particularly its Venetian windows. The building went through many hands and years of neglect and demolishment till the Archaeological Survey Of India took over and restored it to its distinct Italian architectural style recently. Archaeologists have found evidence of an underground canal from the building to the river Hooghly to cool freshly minted coins in its original avatar as a currency house.
Artisan Speak in Kolkata was yet another historical step forward for Indian fashion by showing in a protected building, creating awareness for India’s textile industry, the second largest employment sector in the country, after the agricultural industry. After the momentous fashion show, the Currency Building turned into an exhibition space, open to the public, for jute, silk and handloom crafts the following day. “India has seen a growth of 24 percent in the export of jute products in the last five years,” said Smriti Irani, Union Minister Of Textiles, a pivotal voice of Artisan Speak.
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