LONDON — Design beyond design.
The Design Museum in London’s Kensington will be hosting the first large-scale exhibition in the U.K. on the Indian sari, titled “The Offbeat Sari.”
The exhibition will run from May 19 to Sept. 17 with tickets on sale now.
Priya Khanchandani, the museum’s head of curatorial, leads the showcase, which will bring together more than 90 examples of saris on loan from designers and studios across India.
“There’s a huge South Asian diaspora here in London, so Indian fashion obviously connects with them, but I think the cultural sector is changing and people from different backgrounds with different voices are being given the opportunity to tell different stories,” Khanchandani told WWD at the press conference for the exhibition.
The exhibition will unfold in three parts, covering the themes of transformations, identity and resistance and new materialities.
The first section will focus on the sari’s historical context and how it waned in popularity in the ’90s; the design innovation of the one-piece cloth, and the sari in contemporary art.
Khanchandani wants to use the exhibition to tackle any stereotypes surrounding the sari.
“India’s fashion scene is one of the biggest in the world and it’s time for it to be known beyond its shores,” she said.
“This is not ceremonial wear or something religious or for special occasions. This is street culture and everyday wear in which young people are expressing themselves and it’s extremely relevant,” added Khanchandani, explaining that the sari is worn by women to express female identity and empowerment. She referenced images of women skateboarding and mountain climbing in the garment.
The exhibition moves on to unfolding the gender politicalization of the sari. The sari is traditionally made by men, from the embroidery to the craftwork, which were part of everyday family life, but that isn’t commonly true now as contemporary saris are generally made in workshops and studios.
In the exhibition, Khanchandani explores a handful of men adopting the sari across India.
The last part of the show centers on the technicalities of the sari, which will be demonstrated with hung examples rather than the use of mannequins. The section will highlight India’s expansive textile industry and the way it’s moving into the 21st century.
An example Khanchandani spoke about was Rimzim Dadu’s gold sculptural sari made from hair-thin stainless steel wires.
“I want design in this institution to break out into all sorts of spaces, but fashion in particular, it has all sorts of possibilities that are not often fully explored,” Tim Marlow, chief executive officer and director of the museum, told WWD last year.