When models walked down the ramp at the Dior spring-summer 2022 show at the Musée Rodin in Paris on January 24, the backdrop garnered as much interest as the clothes showcased by Italian fashion designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director at Dior. On the walls were tapestries inspired by the works of Delhi-based artist couple Madhvi and Manu Parekh, carefully embroidered at the Chanakya School of Craft in Mumbai under the close watch of its director, Karishma Swali. “The objective was to underscore, through this couple of artists, the male/female dichotomy, not as opposition, but as complementarity, as perpetual enrichment,” stated the brand in a release.
Known to blend the modern and the traditional, while Madhvi’s works are steeped in folk traditions and her growing up years in Gujarat, Manu is known for his powerful landscapes and abstracts and also his contributions as designer at the Handloom Board. Unable to travel for the show due to the pandemic, even as he received congratulatory calls at his Delhi home on Tuesday morning, Manu said, “This project brings together art, craft and design, which are deeply entwined.”
“We have such a great heritage of craft that we hardly use in art and that should be promoted,” he added.
While the pandemic was a challenge, the painstaking transition from canvas to cloth also involved keeping in mind the essence of the work and the intricacies. For instance, raw linework techniques were employed to showcase Madhvi’s World of Kali, an embodiment of Shakti and the feminine energy and creativity. Manu’s Chant series, on the other hand, uses techniques such as couching and traditional Indian fine needle zardozi stitches to create a sfumato effect. In the release, Swali stated, “The collective vision for this collaboration was to create an immersive experience that celebrates the culture of craftsmanship and the interconnection between us all. This collaboration with the artists aims to overcome the division between art and craft, invoking a shared language between the two.”
According to the note, Chiuri also worked with art historians and curators Maria Alicata and Paola Ugolini for the installation that was created by 320 master artisans who worked for more than three months, embroidering 340 square metres (3,600 square feet) of work entirely by hand. A follower and collector of the artist duo’s works, Swali added, “I began collecting the works by the Parekhs personally many years ago and found an incredible synergy between modernism and traditional Indian motifs, with a deep reverence for exceptional craftsmanship as a unifying thread, exemplifying my mission for Chanakya and our School of Craft… The challenge of interpreting their work was thrilling, and we went about the fabrication in a very spontaneous way – allowing the vivid lines and forms of the artists to lead the way.”
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