If you want to view the “ABOUT ME” section, click on the “ABBAS KHAN AND THE SCHOOL OF PRINCELY TEXTILES” link to the upper left side of your screen.
I have to say that since childhood, i have been fascinated by extravagance in many forms and textiles are no exception. Being a part of an ex Indian princely family myself (my great grandfather was the last official ruler of an Indian princely state), I saw remnants of costumes, jewelry and ceremonies that exemplified princely India (see pictures below) . In India, democracy was only established once the British left in 1947 and princely states survived under the British rule for the 100 year duration of the British rule. Prior to the British, the Indian Imperial family called the “Mughal” dynasty (called MOGUL in English- that’s where the term “business mogul” comes from) ruled for about 3 centuries but they too had princely states ruling under them.
Anyway, each wedding, birthday or festival was observed with certain traditional ceremonies, which were heavily influenced by traditional regal practices. When i was 6 years old, my mother was working with a team of experts to showcase princely Indian costumes and jewelry at museums around the world- some of our family costumes were displayed in American and European museums as part of the “Festival of India”- this exhibition was a traveling exhibition sponsored by the Indian Government. I remember being photographed for it along with my family members, by Kazuyoshi Miyoshi, a well known photographer from Japan. Because the shoot was painstakingly executed – my mother styled a lot of the outfits on herself as well as on all of us- and the costumes were brought out of storage – the photo shoot was probably one of the best styled shoots of its era showing the heritage of princely India. I guess thats how it all began with me at least!
I’m sure i would still have been passionate about textiles had it not been for my heritage but its made it much easier for me to relate to the meaning and significance of the textile now that i understand the lifestyle. Without understanding the principle behind it, one can very easily misunderstand the aesthetic – i have seen this happen when textile & fashion designers have tried to recreate these kinds of textiles/costumes with a regal look- unless designers are made aware of the significance of textiles/costumes in the lifestyle they were created for, designers might think that they are creating a princely textile but what comes out is something entirely different because they’ve completely misunderstood the plot.
I have been extremely blessed to have the support of a few people who have helped me tremendously. No matter of my family background, i could have NEVER been able to technically understand these textiles had it not been for the right people. Without the curators and experts who have taken up the cause of studying and documenting these historic princely textiles, it would have taken me forever to figure out the details that iv worked so hard to learn. And i would have never had access to so many textiles without the museums!
Below are some pictures of from the exhibition that i speak about- my mother, aunt and uncle- the few in which you see them together are from my uncles wedding ceremony. That was in 1988.