Press Release  March 2, 2020

The history of India’s enduring influence on Western fashion

Courtesy Phoenix Art Museum

Irene, Gold brocade evening dress with beige silk chiffon scarf (detail), 1958. Lurex and silk brocade and silk chiffon. Gift of Mrs. B. J. Leonard.

PHOENIX – From February 29 through June 21, 2020, Phoenix Art Museum presents India: Fashion’s Muse, an exhibition examining the ways in which Indian dress, aesthetic, and artwork have inspired Western fashion designs from streetwear to couture. Spanning the 19th to the 21st centuries, the exhibition showcases nearly 40 garments and more than 20 accessories drawn from the collection of Phoenix Art Museum and on loan from private collectors and museums. Featured designs include the paisley shawl, the sari, and the Nehru jacket, with traditional Indian garments exhibited alongside modern works by Indian fashion designer Anamika Khanna and Western designers such as McQueen, Givenchy, and Versace. Curated by Helen Jean, the interim curator of fashion design of Phoenix Art Museum, the exhibition will also present complementary artworks from the Museum’s Asian art collection and a four-minute film on Yves Saint Laurent’s 1982 collection, which was inspired by Indian design.

Courtesy of the designer Anamika Khanna

Anamika Khanna design

“Phoenix Art Museum is excited to present India: Fashion’s Muse to our audiences in Arizona,” said Gilbert Vicario, the Museum’s Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and the Selig Family Chief Curator. “This exhibition explores how international designers have been inspired by and adapted Indian silhouettes, trends, and more into their creations over the past century. India: Fashion’s Muse will also open a window onto the current Indian fashion scene that is redefining the future of style and innovation for a global audience.”

India: Fashion’s Muse features ensembles and accessories from the 19th through the 21st centuries. Drawing primarily from the Museum’s renowned fashion collection, Jean selected garments that illustrate how fashion designers have referenced imagery, color palettes, and silhouettes from India for their Western clientele. Featured designs include vintage and contemporary interpretations of the sari; menswear, including the Nehru collar and the Sikh turban; and accessory cases showcasing a collection of gold jewelry from local collectors and Judith Leiber purses, on loan from the private collection of Kelly Ellman, who in 2006 endowed the Kelly Ellman Fashion Design Gallery in which the exhibition will be presented.

Courtesy of the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles. Commissioned 2010: Funds donated by Karen Coombs-Jordan.

Alexander McQueen, Peacock Dress, Fall/Winter 2008-2009.
Alexander McQueen, Shoes, Fall/Winter 2008-2009.

Visitors will also be able to view the U.S. premiere of I Thought I Was Dreaming, a four-minute film by award-winning artist Sarah Singh featuring Kirat Young, widely-known as India’s first supermodel, and based on the 1982 collection by Yves Saint Laurent that was inspired by India. Presently Singh showcases her work in museums, galleries, think tanks, and universities around the world and, in 2018, launched a new international arts salon in India for concept-driven experiences. The film, which presents a kaleidoscopic world of reflected images as an interpretation of culture, will be shown as a continuous screening within the exhibition.

“India has inspired Western fashion designers for hundreds of years, and this exhibition tells a small but integral part of that very complex story,” said Jean. “With today’s growing awareness about the impact of cultural appropriation by the West, there is greater opportunity to examine how we can better respect those cultural elements in an increasingly globalized world. My hope is that after viewers experience the exhibition, they will be encouraged to look in their own closets, wonder about the origins of their clothes, and research the history of designs and silhouettes they are drawn to in an effort to become more informed about their choices.”

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