Cecil Beaton/Condé Nast Archive
In a gigantic project, Google’s Arts & Culture arm has chronicled 3,000 years of the world’s fashion and style for the first time. It has put together an elaborate virtual exhibition that will give you a glimpse of how fashion and style have developed over the centuries. Titled ‘We Wear Culture’, Google is running the project in collaboration with 183 museums from around the world, including India. The project allows viewers to explore an item of their interest from either their desktops or through the Google Arts & Culture app. The virtual tour is peppered with talks, information nuggets, videos and eye-catching visuals. So for anyone who wants to look beyond the fabric and into the fine intricacies of the thread used or the history of the colour of the fabric, this is the place to check into, as there are around 450 wide-ranging exhibits.
The India story is peppered with the rich lineage of the most iconic Indian garment—the sari. Then there is an exhibit on the journey of the colour indigo presented by the NGO, Avani Society. One of the most popular shades, the word ‘indigo’ is derived from the Greek word ‘indikon’ meaning ‘from India’. A small piece of trivia available tells us that indigo cultivation is thought to have existed in the Indus Valley (present-day Pakistan and north-west India) more than 5,000 years ago and that the procedure of how colour was developed was kept a closely-guarded secret. Indigo was sent on trade routes across Europe as hard blocks, which were processed and dried—people would often think of indigo as a mineral.
Similarly, there are other stories like how tribal groups in Rajasthan dress or about fashion from Meghalaya. Some of the partners involved in the India project include the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, SEWA Hansiba Museum, Salarjung Museum and Indian Museum, to name a few. Each one of the institutions onboard has provided its rich repository of information and photographs.
The exhaustive project, launched early this month and to be a permanent fixture, is not a mere collection of data. Rather, the exhibition is presented using Google’s state-of-the-art technology, including virtual reality, 360-degree videos and ultra-high-resolution gigapixel images. Take, for instance, the works of photographer Irving Penn. Each ultra-high-resolution photograph carries a story of its own, with the visuals telling the viewer a lot more than the accompanying text. Fashion enthusiasts can look forward to a peep into the world of fashion designers Coco Chanel and Alexander McQueen, and fashion icons and actors Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. They can get an insight into the details that went into the creation of every piece of clothing these people created or wore.
From the Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb, Croatia, the tech giant has taken 150 exhibits, which include one of the oldest dresses the museum acquired in 1931. Two interesting exhibits from this museum include ‘A Century of the Wristwatch’ and the ‘Wedding Fashion’ collection.
The exhibition might come across as formidable to some, with over 400 online exhibitions and stories carrying 50,000 photos, videos and other documents, four virtual reality experiences of iconic fashion pieces, 700 gigapixel images and over 40 venues offering backstage access on Google Street View. But all you have to do is sit with the digital device of your choice and click away to a world filled with colours, textures and designs.