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Future Threads

If the narratives and stories, designers and craftspeople weave into their textiles and clothing link past histories to current times, then trend forecasting in design quite imaginatively can be viewed as mythological stories about the future. Edited excerpts from the article.

Doodlage, Panelled military green jacket with the patch work & slogans. Image Courtesy of Doodlage Retail LLP.

Doodlage, Panelled military green jacket with the patch work & slogans. Image Courtesy of Doodlage Retail LLP

In Why We Need Things, Csikszentmihalyi examines the relationships between people and things, noting how ‘every artifact is the product of human intentionality’. In other words, more important than the functional value of objects is their symbolic, cultural and social value in determining their significance and sustained worth. Csikszentmihalyi further highlights how this intentionality doesn’t come about solely in the present or in a vacuum, but is informed and ‘conditioned by the existence of previous objects’.

Image 2: Amit Aggarwal, Monaco from the heart of Kashi: an unconventional bridal collection, 2017. Image Courtesy of Amit Aggarwal and Elevate Promotions

 Amit Aggarwal, Monaco from the heart of Kashi: an unconventional bridal collection, 2017. Image Courtesy of Amit Aggarwal and Elevate Promotions

Relating this to our relationship with fashion, and the symbolism and cultural values we associate to clothing, it is easy to see how past stories or mythologies shape our ongoing and future interactions with the items we wear. As an example, I am reminded of the distinctive Coorgi style of draping the sari and the mythical story that is linked to its origin. Leaving the wearer hands-free due to its short pallu that falls to the front, and ideal for walking across uneven terrain (think Coorg’s scenic hillsides), and ideal for bending and working in the fields due to the pleats being worn at the back, the Coorg sari is a supremely practical garment that also retains all the grace and style of its Nivi counterpart. Yet, in spite of these functional properties, its origin is credited not to a pragmatic individual or group of individuals, but to a mythological story about the Hindu sage Agasthya and his wife Kaveri. While there are many variations to this story, each end with Kaveri transforming into a river to end a long-standing drought in the area. During this transformation, the currents of the water pushed Kaveri’s sari pleats to the back. Heartbroken to see her leave, the local women vowed to wear their saris this way from that day on. No matter what the accurate details or origin of the Coorg sari, iterations of this story are narrated to this day, especially as it stands as a proud symbol of the Kodava community.

Image 3: Sanjay Garg, Raw Mango, Cloud People, Winter/Festive 2017 Collection. Image Courtesy of Raw Mango.

 Sanjay Garg, Raw Mango, Cloud People, Winter/Festive 2017 Collection. Image Courtesy of Raw Mango.

There are many other such myths and legends not only about the saree, but other cultural artifacts – textiles, crafts, ornaments, motifs – that continue to impact our ongoing relationship with them. When I wrote about the #100sareepact in a previous issue, I remember being amazed by the wealth of knowledge wearers had retained (and shared) over generations about their saris and the symbolism vested in the type of textile, handloom or style they were wearing. Such myths and legends sustain not only the continued consumption and use of material artifacts, but also the production of them. Here I am referring to the narrative designers and craftspeople weave into their textiles and clothing. A narrative that links past histories to current times to tell captivating stories about new products that we, through forming our own associations, will come to desire. Arti Sandhu is an Associate Professor of Fashion at the School of Design, DAAP, at the University of Cincinnati.
Arti Sandhu is an Associate Professor of Fashion at the School of Design, DAAP, at the University of Cincinnati.

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