Digital exhibition celebrates sustainability through heritage craft

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Digital exhibition celebrates sustainability through heritage craft
Indore installation for Karkhana Chronicles II.

NEW DELHI.- Karkhana Chronicles II has launched online with a series of installations which bring together craft patronage and contemporary design. The digital exhibition opens a conversation around India’s textile heritage, looking back to tradition to find design solutions of the future.

Supported by The ReFashion Hub - a sustainability-focused initiative with a special emphasis on water stewardship - the project has worked with the royal families of Indore, Kathiwada, Bhavnagar and Mysore to open a conversation on the revival of traditional knowledge and practices in the Indian fashion industry. The project draws its inspiration from the artisanal workshop or ‘karkhana’ whilst advocating for fashion that is kinder to the climate, natural resources, and the people engaged within this sector.

The installations that are a part of the textile exhibit include Indore Maheshwari, Bridging Worlds, a collaboration between REHWA+WomenWeave and designer Sanjay Garg (Raw Mango) which draws inspiration from iconic Boutet de Monvel portraits of HH Maharaja Yeshwantrao II and HH Maharani Sanyogitaraje Holkar. Alongside this, Sanjay Garg (Raw Mango) will present a cape, inspired by the Maharaja’s tuxedo and woven by WomenWeave. The installation demonstrates the versatility of Maheshwari weaving and pushes the boundaries of design and application while staying rooted in its history and heritage.

Alongside this is Mysore Silks and Khadi - Innovation, Creativity and Style which has been conceptualised by HH Yaduveer Wadiyar and his sister, Jayathmika Lakshmi. The installation shows Mysore’s legacy with textiles through contemporary initiatives supporting Khadi and weaving units that use indigenous cotton - thereby revitalising sustainable value chain models. It also highlights Navalgund Dhurrie - a craft which is rapidly dwindling with less than 50 weavers still practicing this unique technique.

Kathiwada - Where Tradition and Innovation Meet (pictured right) brings together various indigenous communities to highlight their traditional craft practices through weaves, prints and jewellery crafts. The installation demonstrates the sustainable nature and versatility of heritage crafts including a bamboo jacket stitched by the native communities and hand-block fabrics, made with natural vegetable dyes.

Weaving Drapes: an installation by Nilambag Palace and Bhavnagar Heritage and designed by Ada Malik brings women weavers and beadmakers of Bhavnagar city together with brass and copper karigars of Sihor to create a vision that shows the range and versatility of traditional skills.

Talking about the exhibition Akshita Bhanj Deo, the Creative Director of Karkhana Chronicles says, "Karkhana Chronicles II seeks to highlight heritage textile art that is not limited to its positive impact on the environment but also the exceptional quality and exclusivity in design that comes along with these textiles. Concepts such as circularity that have come into contemporary discourse on sustainability are actually ideas that have organically existed within our traditional production systems for centuries. Through this exhibition we invite discerning audiences of makers and consumers to engage with this rich legacy of craftsmanship and explore the potential within these traditional knowledge systems to create sustainable futures."

Marking the launch of Karkhana Chronicles II, a special digital panel discussion Contemporary Patronage: Celebrating sustainability through heritage craft was hosted on 25 April. The panel was moderated by Mickey Boardman, Editorial Director, Paper Magazine and invited the seven royal families who have collaborated with the project. The virtual session received a warm reception, with 100+ attendees. The conversation unpacked the various nuanced approaches towards conserving India's textile art and heritage as a means to promoting sustainability in fashion.

The conversation touched upon interesting aspects such as cultural appropriation, sustainability and climate justice as an ingrained aspect of the traditional crafts practiced by indigenous communities and the need to create a larger appeal amongst the youth when it comes to these traditional craft forms.

Addressing the unique identity of a handmade product, Priyadarshini Raje Scindia, Director of Jai Vilas Palace and Museum said "We are a country that inspired the handlooms, handicrafts, and bespoke. Every handloom piece is one of a kind piece, it can't be redesigned or recreated the same way." Adding to the conversation on making heritage craft appealing to young Indians, Brijeshwari Kumari Gohil, Founder of Bhavnagar Heritage said "We need to create that trend factor of Indian textiles and handicrafts if we want to encourage young people to adopt our sustainable textile heritage." Talking about inculcating more inclusivity and sustainability in fashion, Sangita Kathiwada, Founder and Director of Melange Fashion House added a very important point - "Allowing craftsperson to directly engage with the consumers can address the carbon footprint of the packing aspect of fashion as well."

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