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Mumbai is in the spotlight this week, hosting everything from the largest costume display at the recently opened Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre in BKC to Dior's pre-Fall 2023 fashion show at the Gateway of India.

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Beggars from India and British vicereines shared a passion for zardozi. Viceroy of British India Lady Curzon wore a famous Peacock Dress to the Delhi Durbar in 1903. The pattern resembled the feathers of a real peacock and was made of gold and silver zardozi on silk taffeta with an inner layer of Indian cotton muslin. Jean-Philippe Worth of Paris designed it, while Kishan Chand of Delhi embroided it. India was still connected to Paris' ateliers at that time. The vicereine had baulked at their costs even back then.

The largest costume art display India has ever seen is highlighted by Lady Curzon's essentials in silk and zardozi. With the opening of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) at the Bandra Kurla Complex this week, Mumbai gains a stunning new cultural hub. The centre implies business; it's located in the city's commercial district. The Great Indian Musical by Feroz Abbas Khan, Sangam, a visual art show co-curated by Ranjit Hoskote, and India in Fashion, a fashion display including 140 outfits that illustrate India's textile interaction with the rest of the world, are the three major events that will celebrate the opening. The show runs from April 3 through June 4 and spans more than 250 years of Indian karigari.

At the Gateway of India on March 30, international luxury powerhouse Christian Dior will also unveil its pre-Fall 2023 collection, which is inspired by India. It showcases the long-standing collaboration between creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri and the Chanakya Craft Collective, a company located in Mumbai, and is the first international luxury brand to do an official calendar presentation in India. Fashion Week has a new definition, according to creative director and fashion stylist Anaita Shroff Adajania. That's really exceptional: two global fashion festivities in Mumbai within a week. I adore when people recognise our aesthetic sense, skill, and influence. I'm incredibly excited to see how things develop because India is bursting with flavour and love.

She goes on to describe the two occasions, claiming that Mrs. Nita Ambani's strong love and determination have turned this display into a sizable international exhibition. "India in Fashion" can hold its own against any international production. About Dior, Maria Grazia has consistently supported Indian crafts. Several brands have employed Indian embroiderers throughout the years without ever mentioning their use. One designer, Maria Grazia, stood up and announced, "I'm working with the Chanakya School." The display at Gateway is also a monumental accomplishment. It's a great deal to have a company like Dior present their pre-fall collection in a genuine calendar presentation rather than merely an off-site celebration display.

Bowles, who serves as both the global editor of Vogue and the chief editor of the design bible The World of Interiors, has also co-written a coffee table book to go with the programme. He writes candidly in the preface, India's influence on Western design has a long history of celebration, appropriation, exploitation, and appreciation that dates back to the 17th century and continues today. In that sense, the show represents a course adjustment.

All dolled up

One of the fashion epicentres The NMACC exhibition "India in Fashion" has borrowed clothing from 15 international museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris; private collectors, including the Ambanis themselves and actor Sonam Kapoor; the personal archive of the exhibition's curator Hamish Bowles; and the collections of India's most prominent designers, including Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, and Ritu Kumar.

Despite how lovely the designs are, the sets are superior. Along with Rooshad Shroff, Patrick Kinmonth created the breathtaking set. The exhibition area is still still undressed; mannequins are being set up, and pleats and draperies are being cared over. Shroff, an architect who has worked on the project for three years, shows us around. According to him, Pavilion 1 is made in such a way that it adheres to museum requirements for climate control and the appropriate humidity. We were granted an open space that was 50,000 square feet in size, nearly free of pillars, with a great ceiling height of roughly 12 metres. This gave us the opportunity to design unique architectural moments that relate to one another.

The show frequently contrasts an international label with an Indian one in this repeated subject. That demonstrates both our domestic brilliance and how India has been understood by foreign designers, as Adajania points out. One silk and gold brocade dress by Dior from 1956 that is inspired by saris, along with another piece of tulle by Tarun Tahiliani, are featured in the exhibition's opening. According to Shroff, you can also observe an Indian designer who uses a comparable silhouette and fabric. More pieces by Abu-Sandeep and Raw Mango can be found in the muslin section. A few ensembles have even been created just for the event, including Rahul Mishra's reimagining of a kalamkari in delicate, foliate embroidery.

The event tips its homage to all the trailblazers, from Maharajas to Michelle Obama, from Balenciaga to Givenchy, Naeem Khan to Manish Malhotra, and from 1750 to 2023. It charts the evolution of Indian fashion, which is also made clear through the Ambanis' shopping extravaganzas. Nita Ambani reportedly visited Bhuleshwar in the 1980s to purchase her bandhanis. In 2018, Valentino created a gold embroidered extravaganza for one of Isha Ambani's wedding gowns. The only Indian lehenga they ever produced was this one. As Rahul Mishra becomes the first Indian designer to present his haute couture in Paris and Sabyasachi establishes a flagship store in Manhattan, India continues to have an impact on global fashion, as it has throughout history, Bowles writes in the coffee table book's conclusion.

Dior in the house

Maria Grazia Chiuri frequently wears a uniform, just like many other fashion directors. Slicked blonde hair, all-black attire, and kohl-rimmed eyes characterise power dressing. Their eyes have now focused on India, not only for its embroidery studios but also for its potential as the country's next large market.

Supermodels Naomi Campbell and Cara Delevingne will be among those displaying tigers, peacocks, and elephants in salwar kameez variants and bustling carpet prints on March 30 at Gateway of India. 400 rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace and 150 more at the Trident Hotel, according to an insider. At the opulent spaces of the Great Eastern House in Byculla and Snowball Studios in Worli, cocktail-infused parties have been arranged.

Another Indian art meets Dior event will take place at Snowball Studios as a side event. Large-scale, hand-embroidered textile panels of the works of New Delhi-based artists Madhvi and Manu Parekh were created by Chanakya under Chiuri's request in 2022. The backgrounds for Dior's Spring/Summer 2022 runway show at Musee Rodin in Paris were afterwards installed. For the first time, these pieces go to India for the month-long Mul Mathi exhibition, which was organised by the Asia Society India Center. The panels, which are accessible to everyone, reproduce in thread the vibrant colours and strong brushstrokes of the Parekh duo's paintings.

Dior's visit to Mumbai is partly attributable to Chiuri's lengthy relationship with Chanakya. I have worked with the Chanakya Atelier for over 20 years, forging a close friendship and professional relationship with its owners Nehal [Shah] and Karishma Swali, she had stated in an Instagram post. I personally wanted to honour and highlight the extraordinary expertise India brings to the world of fashion in the area of needlework, the skill of the artisans who are still engaged in this work, and the dedication of Chanakya's founders to the preservation of India's history and culture.

Mirrored embroidery, hot pink sequins, rich golden borders, and filigree lace are all deftly elevated to a level of sophistication that could only be achieved through the joint ambition of Indian artisans and a French house to make something new in the service of modern, wearable fashion, according to a statement made at the pre-Fall 2023 collection's launch in December of last year.

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