India has a rich heritage and it needs to be conserved. The country’s textile industry has witnessed growth by leaps and bounds. However, amidst all the developments and innovations, what is equally crucial is to stay connected to the roots. Archived collections and designs give a glimpse of glorious yesteryears, thus inspiring millions of artisans and design enthusiasts. Hence, chronicling the dynamic, beautiful, and ever-changing processes of fashion, fashion archiving is undeniably becoming one of the center points of the industry. Textile conservationists are now not only helping conserve Indian textile heritage but are also skilfully archiving it. These archives can be used by museums or fashion houses to display the rich legacy of Indian textiles.
Nonetheless, there is lack of awareness regarding fashion conservation among us Indians, and Deepshikha Kalsi, Textile Conservator, is gradually trying to change that. She has worked as a qualified conservation professional since fourteen years, associating with museums like V&A (Victoria and Albert) and private clients to evaluate the present condition of their collection and to work out suitable textile conservation solutions.
After working with INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) for four years and the Times of India group’s Art Conservation Department for seven years, she established the Textile Conservation Studio in India in 2011. Her expertise lies in inspection of collections, documentation, strategic planning, preservation of collections and implementation of conservation procedures.
In a country where people are neither familiar nor aware about fashion archiving, Deepshikha has gained expertise in the conservation of painting in printed and woven textiles. Further, she wants to inspire the youth to think of Fashion Conservation and Archiving as a viable career option in India.
1.Why are you passionate about this role?
Textiles have always fascinated me and it originates from there. India has a rich textile heritage and it pains me to see only a few surviving examples in our country. Adding to this pain is the way they have been stored and displayed. Thus, I would like to conserve and save our textiles for future generations to experience the splendour of our heritage.
2.Who is a fashion archivist or material conservationist?
Textile conservation is still a new concept in India and its applicability is yet to reach its full potential. A textile conservator or a fashion archivist plays a great role in storing, preserving, shaping up archives, and storage to safeguard past references for future studies.
3.What is the scope of a fashion archiving in India?
A fashion archivist plays a very significant role in the conservation of history. They would be required to document the object/design at hand, understand the process and materials that shaped it, maintain provenance, and provide safe storage so the collection may be referred to and studied, thus making it available with complete information in physical and digital format. It was such a delight and an eye-opener to experience the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum and The Fabric of India exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
4.How did The Fabric of India exhibition inspire you?
The Fabric of India exhibition was co-curated by Rosemary Crill and Divia Patel. It was the first major exhibition that explored the depths of handmade Indian textiles. I witnessed the technical mastery and creative genius of Indian artisans from 3rd century to the present day, which gave me an opportunity to examine the cultural, economic, and political importance of Indian textiles in India as well as around the world.
5.Have you been approached by any Indian fashion house for archiving their collection?
Recently, I had been approached by a designer Ashdeen Lilaowala to discuss work in this context, also there was a fashion house that wanted to do a project but that’s still unsure.
6. Are there any Fashion Conservationists that are already working with Indian fashion houses?
Mayank Mansingh Kaul, a Delhi-based designer, has been working closely with designers Abraham and Thakore and Ritu Kumar. In September, 2017 he curated an exhibition by textile designers Swati Agarwal and Sunaina Jalan called Gold—The Art Of Zari in Delhi.
7. What course does one have to do to get into fashion archiving?
If one just wishes to be an archivist, it would be ideal to do a bachelors course from a design institute and further a masters in Museology. If one wishes to pursue textile conservation, then masters in conservation from National Museum Institute or study abroad in Scotland, U.K., Vienna, France or Switzerland.
8. How does one find a job as a fashion archivist or material conservationist in India?
One will have to approach fashion houses and designers for the same.
9. Anything else that you want to add in order to help students find their niche in material conservation?
Best would be to apply for internships and get exposure. There are a lot of scholarships available today, the Nehru Trust, Charles Wallace India Trust, Mellon Trust, Inlaks and many other institutions abroad take in professionals and students and support them in furthering their career. Experience is the key.
Deepshikha Kalsi is a perfect example of someone who took the chisel and carved a niche. Likewise, many Indian fashion houses have also started realizing the importance of conserving their designs and collections. These archived collections can be a source of inspiration to many designers for future designs, and it also helps in documenting the legacy of a fashion house. Many international fashion houses have started creating a digital library, thus making their collection available at the click of a button.
Edited By: Mili Doshi
Photograph credit: Eka Resources