I was very glad to be reunited with those cabinets, but they are no longer housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, instead you can find them at the Clothworkers Centre in Hammersmith, London. (The image below shows one of these cabinets)
This facility offers visitors and researchers a unique opportunity to inspect and study its collections of textiles and fashion, ranging from archaeological fragments to heavy tapestry and carpets, accessories and underwear to embroidered 18th century court dresses and contemporary haute couture.
Also, on a seperate visit to the Clothworkers centre, I was able to get up close and have some one-on-one time with some early textile pieces from the Asian collections which I'll also share.
I learnt that the very dedicated team of curators and assistants are currently working hard at digitally archiving every piece so the entire V&A textile collection will be available online. (so yes, just 95,000 objects, no small feat)
And this is to be done, before the collection is on the move again, as part of the big V&A East project, which will be home to be a brand-new museum at Stratford Waterfront, in London, opening in 2023. Booking my flights now!
And I was very happy when our guide decided to reveal a couple of them to us. I'm sure her choice wasn't random. ;-)
The first reveal: A Schiaparelli, evening ensemble, of a lush silk purple velvet and with embroidered sequins.
Schiparelli was quite a character, and it has prompted me to look her up again! In the meantime to find out more about this particular design here is the link - collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O88472/evening-ensemble-elsa-schiaparelli/
Next reveal: A lavish gold and white beaded ivory evening dress worn by Queen Elizabeth II on a state visit to Paris in 1957.
The dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, and is called 'The flowers of the fields of France' and features some rather special Napoleonic bees. Designed to compliment the French nation and draw attention to the Queen.
But what was really fabulous was we were all textile enthusiasts on one level or another, all from far flung parts of the globe. And all made conversation and connections about textiles that had personal meanings to us. Chats over a pint are the best. Great to make new friends indeed!
The Clothworkers appointment
I have had a long standing fascination with Ikat weave, so started there. Then I wanted to ogle fabric that was rather ancient, so that was my next choice.
Patola-weaving is a closely guarded family tradition and it can take six months to one year to make one sari due to the long process of dying each strand separately before weaving them together. Here is a clip if you want to see the work involved Ikat dyeing and weaving
This ceremonial cloth had an intriguing design of a woman carrying a parrot with female attendants holding an umbrella. The design is repeated over two registers. Apparently the motifs mimic those seen in an western Indian manuscript painting of the period 1400-1500 and earlier.
Cloths like this one served as banner hangings and stage-set backdrops for ceremonies, especially harvest festivals and celebrations of rites of passage.
It was incredible to see the depth of the Indigo dye, still very bright even after 100s of years.
I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse, of a couple of mornings spent at the Clothworkers Collective in London.
Next blog will be about the 'Sustainable Angle' - a textile trade show I visited while in London. Lots to un pack there! Stay tuned.