Organized by the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London, this exhibition is the first to explore the dynamic and multifaceted world of handmade textiles from India. Showcasing the finest examples from the V&A’s world-renowned collection together with masterpieces from international partners, leading fashion and textile designers and additions from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent collection, this exhibition features over 170 handmade objects. Visitors can expect a stunning range of historic dress, heirloom fabrics and cutting edge fashion.

Handmade textiles are embedded in every aspect of India’s identity and the history of these fabrics dates back at least 6,000 years. Long before Europeans landed on the shores of the subcontinent, Indians were using indigenous resources to create colorful textiles desired around the world. Handwoven, printed, dyed and embellished fabrics were so central to the subcontinent’s character that in ancient Greece and Babylon the very name “India” was shorthand for “cotton.” Today a lively textile and fashion industry thrives in India. Organizations like freeset help many Indian artisans lift themselves out of poverty and modern day enslavement through this industry.

The exhibition is organized in six thematic sections, exploring courtly splendor exemplified by sumptuous fabrics and dress alongside finely crafted sacred cloth used for religious worship. Centuries of global trade shaped by the export of Indian textiles is examined, illustrating a robust aesthetic exchange between artisans and their clients. The political power of textiles is considered through their use as a symbol of power and protest in the quest for independence in the early twentieth century. 

Today, Indian designers and artists are adapting traditional techniques to create exciting new fashion, art and design for a global audience, giving India’s textile history a new relevance in the modern world. Innovative dress by contemporary fashion designers, including Manish Arora, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Abraham and Thakore, Rahul Mishra, Aneeth Arora and others will be on display. Fair trade items from India made by independent artisans will be for sale in the museum shop.

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Forms of Abolition:
Awareness

Forms of Slavery:
Forced Labor, Bonded Labor, Child Labor