"From Before There Was Fashion"

Bhanu's Stunning Designs For The First Calico Fashion Show Of 1958

Fashion is a vibrant and ever-evolving art form that reflects the spirit of an era. In the annals of Indian fashion history, one event stands out as a pivotal moment in time – the first Calico fashion show of 1958. In 1958, Bhanu Athaiya was invited by Ebrahim Alkazi to design the first traveling promotional fashion show in independent India for Calico Mills. This event took place at the "India '58" Trade Fair in New Delhi, making it a pivotal moment in Indian fashion history.

The First Calico Fashion Show in 1958

1958 was a year of transformation in the Indian fashion scene, as the first Calico fashion show came to life. Possibly spearheaded by Ebrahim Alkazi, a luminary in Indian theatre, this event was a groundbreaking fusion of art, culture, and fashion. What set this show apart from the rest was the involvement of artist Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya, whose designs left an indelible mark on Indian fashion.

Bhanu's creations were more than just garments; they were a narrative of India's rich heritage. Through a masterful amalgamation of handwoven textiles, intricate embroidery, and cutting-edge design, Bhanu's designs brought to the forefront the essence of India. Models graced the runway in attire that celebrated the nation's craftsmanship, giving the world a glimpse into the textile traditions that have been the heart and soul of India for centuries.

The Legacy of Bhanu's Designs

While Bhanu's designs from the first Calico fashion show hold immense historical significance, they also carry an air of fragility. These creations were more than just garments; they were exquisite works of art, making them inherently delicate and susceptible to the ravages of time. Despite the fragility of the sketches, the essence of Bhanu's contribution to Indian fashion remains intact.

The first Calico fashion show of 1958, featuring Bhanu's designs, represents a crucial moment in the history of Indian fashion. Bhanu's creations transcended clothing and became living, breathing works of art, encapsulating India's rich cultural heritage. While these designs may be too fragile to be exhibited, their legacy lives on, a testament to the enduring artistry and dedication of those who have shaped the course of Indian culture.

Bhanu Athaiya's involvement in this groundbreaking fashion event was not an isolated incident in her remarkable career. She had a profound impact on the Indian fashion scene and was involved in numerous other significant projects:

  • West Bengal Handloom Fashion Show: Bhanu also contributed her design expertise to a fashion show featuring West Bengal handloom creations, demonstrating her versatility and ability to capture the essence of different regions and textile traditions.

  • Founding Board of Governors of NIFT: Bhanu Athaiya was a member of the founding board of governors of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) for four years, playing a vital role in shaping the educational and professional landscape of the fashion industry in India.

  • Teaching and Educational Contributions: She also imparted her knowledge by teaching fashion design and the history of Western fashion at NIFT Mumbai, sharing her expertise with the next generation of fashion designers.

  • Fashion Shows for Ministry of Textiles: Bhanu designed fashion shows for the Ministry of Textiles, showcasing styles for Tamil Nadu silk and cotton handlooms in Chennai and West Bengal silk and cotton handlooms and handicrafts in Calcutta. These events were NIFT presentations, highlighting her continued involvement in nurturing and promoting India's textile and fashion heritage.

  • Illustrated Talk and Costume Display in New York: Bhanu Athaiya's influence extended beyond India. She delivered an illustrated talk and costume display at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, sponsored by Air India for the Festival of India. The theme of this event was "Living in Harmony with," emphasizing the cultural and artistic connections that transcend borders.

Bhanu Athaiya's contributions to the world of fashion, her dedication to preserving India's cultural heritage, and her ability to transcend boundaries through her work make her a true legend in the realm of Indian fashion. The first Calico fashion show of 1958, featuring her designs, remains an iconic moment in this journey, a testament to the enduring artistry and dedication of those who have shaped the course of Indian culture.

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