A Sari Reaches London on a Cycle Rickshaw


A Sari Reaches London on a Cycle Rickshaw

What would a fashion designer’s response be if a museum curator rummaged around in his workshop looking for a symbolic garment that not only represented his sensibility and brand, but also made a socio-political point about the creator’s country? Whew, you may say. Right. David Abraham and Raakesh Thakore, of the respected label Abraham & Thakore, too are grateful no one presented them with this puzzle.

Even so, one of their black silk saris with an inlaid cycle rickshaw, worn high and short, not with a choli but with an applique tunic tucked into the waist, along with a leather belt and high mojri shoes, has been chosen to live permanently in the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

This piece, incidentally, has another story peeping out of its seams. It is from the duo’s Autumn-Winter 2010 collection shown in Delhi two years ago as part of their first-ever show in the 25 years of their work. No one is surprised that Abraham and Thakore are the chosen ones. Products of Ahmedabad’s National Institute of Design, now one of the most veteran creator pairs in Indian fashion, they are also among the few who have shown an unwavering commitment to Indian textiles. Cling and bling doesn’t sway them, nor do Bollywood showstoppers distract from their design. “When we showed this sari on the ramp, some people wondered about it being black because it is not the most auspicous colour after all,” says Abraham, confessing he is more intrigued than anything else with this choice.

With pieces that span more than 3,000 years and represent the world’s global cultures, the V&A has a permanent collection that tops four million pieces, making it the world’s largest decorative arts museum. It houses a wide range of East Asian decorative arts, a fashion and jewellery section that ranges from the 17th century till today, and even a Nehru Gallery of Indian Art.

This black Indian sari (a piece of vernacular Indian dressing, as Abraham calls it) with a cycle rickshaw on it isn’t an incidental choice. In the world’s palpably evolving curiosity about India’s design movement, the cycle rickshaw is as important a motif as the sari is a field.