Chanakya School of Craft and the Chanakya Atelier collaborated with DIOR for the commission of a series of monumental textile artworks by award winning contemporary Indian Artists Madhvi and Manu Parekh, at the spring-summer 2022 Dior haute couture presentation in Paris. The works depict traditional Indian motifs and spiritual abstractions that celebrate the dichotomy between male and female, real and surreal, action and stillness. This conversation was the result of a year-long collaboration between Creative Director of Dior women’s collections Maria Grazia Chiuri and Karishma Swali. For this installation, Chiuri worked with art historians and curators Maria Alicata and Paola Ugolini.

Underscoring her creative dialogue with India and paying homage to the blurred lines between fine art and craft, Creative Director of Dior women’s collections Maria Grazia Chiuri brought together these two widely celebrated Indian artists using the language of embroidery, interpreted through meticulous artistry and textile techniques by Karishma Swali, at the ateliers of Chanakya and at the Chanakya School of Craft in Mumbai.

“I am honoured to bring to life our collective vision with Maria Grazia Chiuri, Madhvi Parekh and Manu Parekh for this immersive experience, which frames the Dior haute couture presentation,” states Karishma Swali. “Maria Grazia has always been a true champion for craft excellence, fostering and preserving indigenous master techniques from around the world, and we are so grateful for her collaboration and mentorship.”

The series was created under the stewardship of Karishma Swali and the Mumbai-based Chanakya School of Craft, which Karishma co-founded with a mission to develop and foster education, skill development and self-determination among women, while investing in the preservation of Indian cultural heritage and the promotion of the arts. This exceptional installation was created by 320 master artisans and the women of the Chanakya School who worked for more than three months, embroidering 340 square metres (3,600 square feet) of work entirely by hand. The confluence of contemporary artistry, couture techniques and textile excellence culminate in this dynamic commissioned presentation that reinvents the role of the atelier, of the artist, and of the couturier.

Madhvi Parekh’s work is the confluence of modernism and traditional Indian craft motifs. Honoured with the National Award from Lalit Kala Akademi in 1979, Madhvi Parekh’s art is the confluence of modernism and traditional Indian craft patterns, and is steeped in folk traditions, her life growing up in her village in Gujarat’s abundance of nature and Indian customs as diverse as the rangoli, embroidery and the Bhavai travelling theatre. To represent her artwork - World of Kali, the quintessential embodiment of Shakti or feminine energy, fertility, and creativity through our craft, raw linework techniques were employed to lend an energetic charge to this installation.

Manu Parekh’s art constantly invites the viewer to travel through mental landscapes and spiritual abstractions, with a relentless commitment that makes him one of the most singular voices in contemporary Indian art. A laureate of the Indian Government’s prestigious Padma Shri (1992), Manu Parekh is among India's best-known modern artists and one of India’s most inventive painters. To interpret the art of Manu Parekh, meticulous attention was paid to creating layers revealing many hidden details that invite individual exploration. In the Chant series, raw threads were employed to create a feeling of vibration and energy. The other techniques used in the installation include couching and traditional Indian fine needle zardozi stitches to create a sfumato effect – a technique allowing tones and colours to blend gradually into one another, producing softened outlines or hazy forms.

Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior has consistently sought to collaborate with numerous women artists from around the world: dancers, choreographers, musicians, poets, photographers, filmmakers and visual artists. With this latest immersive experience, which interprets the artists’ paintings and renders them in exquisite embroidery and textile techniques, is a nod to the couture lineage of Dior in parallel with the rich heritage of Indian craftsmanship.

The women at the Chanakya School of Craft, are ecstatic to see their work on this global platform and to be a part of this iconic moment. They are grateful for this opportunity and are joyfully looking towards the next challenge.

“The collective vision for this collaboration was to create an immersive experience that celebrates the culture of craftsmanship and the interconnection between us all. This collaboration with the artists aims to overcome the division between art and craft, invoking a shared language between the two.”