Touring exhibition from Scotland compares Scotland’s textile industry and India’s thriving crafts.
Mumbai’s Artisans gallery hosted ‘India Street Bazaar’ to mark India’s 70 years of Independence. The event constituted a touring exhibition from Scotland that compared Scotland’s textile industry and India’s thriving crafts. The design exhibition was accompanied by a programme of events exploring slow fashion and design collaboration. The project was named after India Street. A nineteenth-century factory in the West of Scotland was once the biggest producer of Turkey Red fabrics – naturally dyed fabric – with India their biggest export market. However by the 20th-century markets declined, one of the reasons was Swadeshi Movement in India, and the factory was shut in 1960. Though the Turkey red industry is no more, the crafts that they once copied still remain in production.
The aim of India Street Bazaar was to highlight the importance of sustainability, looking at how contemporary designers can work ethically in our global, digital age. “I traveled to India in 2010 on a research trip exploring crafts. I was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of what was being made, and also the contrast with Scotland in terms of geography and textile industry. I tried to find common ground and stumbled upon the Turkey red industry from the west of Scotland. Although, no longer in production, it had such strong connections to India craft in how it produced its textiles,” says India Street Bazaar curator Katy West.
Katy West invited seven designers – Laura Spring, Lokesh Ghai, Charlotte Linton, People Tree, Emlyn Firth, Raw Mango, Gabriella Marcella – from India and Scotland to explore the Turkey red archives and respond to the fabrics, their colours, patterns, and motifs. At Artisans Director Radhi Parekh invited Geeta Khandelwal, Peoli, Rajesh Vankar, Pracheen, Fahd Khatri, and Indigene to respond to the India Street project through their artisanal craft practice of weave, bandhani, block print, and madder red dye.
For the Mumbai edition, designers and artisans brought the story full circle as they referred to Scotland’s industrial textile history and the Indian patterns it sought to replicate. Parekh says, “The Mumbai edition of India Street at Artisans’ brings the story of madder in India up to date, as a counterpoint to the 19th-century story of Turkey Red. The project uncovers a decline in the use of natural madder where it was once prevalent. Many artisans who have switched to the easier-to-use synthetic Alizarin, are relearning traditional dye recipes. While drawing inspiration from Turkey red, the artisans have rediscovered their own histories.”
The designers created vibrant scarves, shirts, t-shirts, cotton shoppers, pyjamas, quilts and cushion covers in a collection that united Scotland’s industrial textile history with the Indian designs and patterns it sought to replicate.
Each product produced reflected the designers’ position in relation to business models, ethics of production, fashion and taste. Supporting the exhibition was a talks programme and a series of workshops including a discussion on the role of women’s work in craft hosted by Harshada Patil and a weekend workshop with India Street designer Emlyn Firth and Ajrakh printer Soyab Kathri.
India Street is part of the UK-India 2017 programme and is supported by Creative Scotland, British Council Scotland and British Council India.
The event took place from November 4 to 12 at Artisans’, 52-56, Dr V B Gandhi Marg, Rhythm House Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort.