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Tale of tradition

KAUSALYA SANTHANAM
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BOOK Read the story behind that kurta you wear. Radhika Singh's book looks at fabindia on its 50th anniversary

AN EXPEDITION Into warps and wefts
AN EXPEDITION Into warps and wefts

R arely has a name captured the range and richness of India's fabrics so well. In 50 years, fabindia has brought about a sea change in what a section of urban India wears. From teenagers to those in their sixties and beyond, it has united Indian women and men in what it takes to be both “ethnic” and “in”.

Colours, prints and weaves in silk and cotton that wrap our infinitely rich traditions around us, but also impart a contemporary touch. And, hues and textures that surround us in our homes as well, through fine furnishings. It has given a much-needed boost to those sweating over millions of looms, enhancing the quality of their lives and instilling pride in them about the products they create.

Radhika Singh's book “The Fabric of Our Lives: The Story of fabindia” deals with the birth and growth of the company that owes itself to the vision and commitment of John Bissell, an American who made India his home. Led by his passion for handloom, he built up a brand that now has more than 120 outlets throughout the country. The well-researched book, published by the Penguin Group commemorates the 50th anniversary of fabindia.

Radhika Singh is credited with starting Delhi's first photo agency, Fotomedia. She studied English Literature and then completed her Masters in Social Work. She has curated photo exhibitions, the last one being on the history of photography in the sub-continent. Excerpts from a brief chat:

Why did you choose to write this book?

I didn't. I was commissioned to do so. I was putting together an archive of photos of my family in Delhi, including family friends, the Bissells. I met John's son William one day and it led to my mentioning various proposals for celebrating fabindia's 50th anniversary in 2010. He suggested I put it into a concept note. This grew into a book.

Do you love fabrics?

I don't have a passion for clothes. But my M.Phil was on the cotton textile industry. I'm a fabindia person, however — since 1976, all my kurtas, upholstery, furnishings and crockery are from their stores.

And, how many people will read this book?

I can't say thousands. But many are picking up the book.

Did your husband, the well-known economist Omkar Goswami help in any way?

He certainly did. He demystified figures turning fabindia's 50 annual reports into ready reckoners for me to pore over (she laughs).

There will be a book reading from “The Fabric of Our Lives: The Story of fabindia” today by Radhika Singh at Bangalore International Centre, Teri Complex, 4th Main, 2nd Cross, Domlur II Stage, (25359680)

KAUSALYA SANTHANAM

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