REVIEW: The Fabric of India @Victoria and Albert Museum

The V&A celebrate the extraordinary handmade textiles created in India in this vibrant and colourful exhibition that has plenty to say for itself from beginning to end. 

Installation view of The Fabric of India at the V&A. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The Fabric of India, just opened at the museum, grabs the visitor’s attention right from the moment that they step into the exhibition space and refuses to let go until the very end. With its wide variety of information and fabrics and materials on display, the exhibition really gets to the heart of why Indian textiles is the best in the world.

Taking the visitor through the various techniques and skills needed to create many of the fabrics and garments that are on display, The Fabric of India reveals just how much passion and creativity goes into creating a handmade fabric.

It reveals a variety of interesting facts and information that you could never have imagined, revealing the level of depth of research that has gone into the creation of this exhibition. For example, blue dye  has always been closely associated with india that Ancient Greeks took the Western name ‘indikos’ (now known as the colour indigo) from the country itself.

Installation view of The Fabric of India at the V&A. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

But it is a celebration of the colours as well as the culture and techniques used for the Indian textile industry that is completely inspiring to look at close up and the visitor is made to look at every  inch of space, showcasing the fabrics to the full – never knowing what you will expect to see next.

However, the exhibition doesn’t just work on a visual basis, but also in adding to people’s knowledge about the fabrics and the skills of those who made them. It offers a very detailed and precise description of each garment and fabric and includes details of how each was made but without overwhelming the visitor.

Installation view of Fabric in India at the V&A. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Although the amount of material on display can be slightly overwhelming in places, there is certainly no doubting the hypnotic and laid back nature of The Fabric in India that flows easily from one space to the next thanks to the wonderful layout design of the display.

So it was sad to note that when Britain began to export machine made yarn and cloth to India in the 1780’s, although it helped Britain’s textile industry it damaged India’s at the same time. This in turn raised the level of unemployment in India – showing how important to India’s economy the textile industry is.

Thankfully, Indian textiles did regain some of its popularity although not quite to the extent that it was before the 1780’s and now inspires designers across the world, revealing the power and influence that Indian textiles still has globally.

It is an exhibition that is guaranteed to take your breath away as you walk into every single room, offering you a rich and intelligent view of the best of Indian handmade fabrics.Those who are fascinated by textiles will certainly not want to miss this glorious exhibition.

The Fabric of India is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum until the 10th January 2016. 

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