The discourse on class mobility is pervasive in contemporary India, and is in itself seen to be one of liberalised India’s greatest fruits. In particular, the public imagination often portrays creative professionals as fuelled by drive and ambition and thus capable of rupturing historical boundaries of class and caste thanks to this imagined innate power. The National Institute of Fashion Technology Delhi is one of the places where students continue to flock in order to emerge as successful creatives. But considering how many students come from upper caste and class backgrounds, is this idea of class travel a mere myth?
Our relationship with clothing is not only aspirational and image led, a myth that spectacular exhibitions cannot help but propagate: it is cultural, sensory and embodied, and we, as everyday dressers, are also authors of fashion. However too often fashion exhibitions centre around visual engagement with the glamorous surfaces of fashion, rather than forge connections to the real world of senses and emotions. Does this emphasis on a particular kind of visual encounter limit the viewer’s capacity to engage with the garment as a locus of multi-sensory experience, the ways we feel in and feel about our clothes?
Hussein Chalayan became known as a ‘conceptual designer’ in the 1990s and it’s been bugging him ever since. Rather than getting attention for his more extraordinary designs (there have been dresses made of giant plastic bubbles, a table turning into a skirt, LED lights and lasers incorporated into garments as well as black chadors either covering or exposing the naked bodies of his models), he would like the focus to be on his wearable clothes, the stuff that people actually buy.