The exhibition focuses on the historical and ongoing importance of textile to the economy of India. It traces the origins of India’s natural plant fibres and dyes, through to its place as the world’s largest exporter of fabrics across the globe, trading with China, Africa and the Middle East long before Vasco da Gama claimed the seat route from Europe. Unseen treasures sit alongside everyday objects. Apart from its luxury silks and fine cottons, India’s fabric industry also gave to Britain the words calico, dungarees, gingham, khaki, pyjamas, shawl and sash. Chinz being related to a sanskrit word meaning coloured or spotted. “Fabric was also very tied up with the resistance movement. It was a key symbol of power and protest,” says co-curator Divia Patel
“Every piece here has a story,” she said. “If they were protesting against fashion I can see their point. Fashion is big business and so many clothes are poor quality and produced on exploitation. Our product is not. It might be hand crafted in Japan, it is a sartorial work of art.” That said, she’s noticed changing clientele. “We have Argentinians, Japanese, Thais, Chinese.”
I have seen this resilience during my own research at a device-free summer camp. At a nightly cabin chat, a group of 14-year-old boys spoke about a recent three-day wilderness hike. Not that many years ago, the most exciting aspect of that hike might have been the idea of roughing it or the beauty of unspoiled nature. These days, what made the biggest impression was being phoneless. One boy called it “time where you have nothing to do but think quietly and talk to your friends.” The campers also spoke about their new taste for life away from the online feed. Their embrace of the virtue of disconnection suggests a crucial connection: The capacity for empathic conversation goes hand in hand with the capacity for solitude. In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation with something to say that is authentic, ours. If we can’t gather ourselves, we can’t recognize other people for who they are. If we are not content to be alone, we turn others into the people we need them to be. If we don’t know how to be alone, we’ll only know how to be lonely.
Better known for designing the seating for the Royal Festival Hall in 1951 and his invention of the polypropylene stacking chair in 1963, Robin Day OBE was also an accomplished graphic designer. A self-taught one at that: “Though my father had no formal training in graphics,” says Day’s daughter Paula, “from an early age he showed a talent for drawing, and taught himself the necessary typographic skills.” This “sensitive use of typography” became a central feature of Day’s work, much of which was for the Central Office of Information. The London Design Festival celebrates the designer’s centenary with a series of events, including the Works in Wood exhibition at the V&A until 27 September.
Design is a rather broad and vague term. When someone says “I’m a designer,” it is not immediately clear what they actually do day to day. There are a number of different responsibilities encompassed by the umbrella term designer.
Design-related roles exist in a range of areas from industrial design (cars, furniture) to print (magazines, other publications) to tech (websites, mobile apps). With the relatively recent influx of tech companies focused on creating interfaces for screens, many new design roles have emerged. Job titles like UX or UI designer are confusing to the uninitiated and unfamiliar even to designers who come from other industries.
Out in the desert in California, Nevada and Arizona, there are abandoned silver mines like buried time capsules, virtually untouched, and you can find vintage bottles down there that are worth a lot to collectors. But as I searched for them, I kept coming across these scraps of denim, because jeans, especially Levi’s, were worn by the silver miners in the late 1800s. When a miner got a new pair of work pants, he’d cut up the old ones and use them for lagging around pipes, so there were a lot of antique jeans buried out here.
Fashion Week has a way of making collections seem to blend together — look after look, trend after trend. Sometimes live streaming shows just isn’t enough. The meticulous stitching, beading, and draping that goes into some pieces, especially couture, rarely get the attention it deserves. In the midst of fashion month, Chanel gave us the opportunity to slow down and take it all in at its showroom in New York City with a close-up look at the brand’s Fall 2015 couture collection.