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How an Issey Miyake show in Mumbai speaks about the power of sharing

The ongoing exhibition of personal items shows how one collector’s passion can be a conversation starter

From the 'Clothes That Changed The World: Mina Krishnan’s Collection Of Issey Miyake' exhibition
From the 'Clothes That Changed The World: Mina Krishnan’s Collection Of Issey Miyake' exhibition

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For close to a month, a design gallery in Mumbai’s heritage village, Khotachiwadi, has been hosting a unique exhibition. The show at 47-A includes over 70-plus Issey Miyake garments and accessories owned by the late Mumbai entrepreneur Mina Krishnan, who was fascinated by the Japanese designer’s work for over 30 years. Each piece in the collection, be it a bright pleated orange blouse or a pair of draped yellow-and-black trousers, reflects Miyake’s mastery—and Krishnan’s fun approach to fashion.

Clothes That Changed The World: Mina Krishnan’s Collection Of Issey Miyake represents a big private collection of a designer label that doesn’t even retail in the country. But beyond the tribute from Mina Krishnan’s husband, Mohan Krishnan, and their daughter, Ayesha Hamilton, it’s the kind of initiative that may well be new in India: sharing a collector’s personal possessions for the purposes of charity, education, and a glimpse into the person’s many personalities.

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The late Mumbai entrepreneur Mina Krishnan
The late Mumbai entrepreneur Mina Krishnan

“This is the first time something like this is happening,” claims Ratan Batliboi, curator of the 47-A show. “I hope it encourages more people to showcase their collections. India has people with collections of cigar labels, matchboxes.... It’s important to be open about them to not just educate people but also share personal interests with the world and tell stories in a different way. It’s a way of community-building, after all.”

He has a point. Establishments like the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Devi Art Foundation do display their collections to start a dialogue on subjects ranging from the way India has influenced Western design through textiles, to why real phulkari is almost extinct, but a display of personal possessions is rare.

I ask art curator Uma Nair why. “I don’t know really,” she says. “I do know individuals donate clothes, good designer clothes, to others for the sake of charity but exhibiting them is not really a thing in the country. In that sense, the Miyake show is a breakthrough. You are telling a story about two people through clothes. Isn’t that remarkable? Plus, Miyake’s attention to design is a study on how the Japanese shaped the world of art and design.”

That’s not a far-fetched statement.

Whether they are Mina’s pieces from the practical Pleats Please collection, or from the 132 5. line that blended geometric shapes and structured clothing, or the versatile Bao Bago bags, Miyake believed in engineering design with sharp origami-like pleating and avant-garde cuts, all inspired by Japanese art.

It was this functional and joyful approach that drew Mina in when she saw a Miyake store for the first time in 1988, on Singapore’s Orchard Road. After Mina, chair of Lotus Learning Pvt. Ltd as well as of the Indian Direct Selling Asso- ciation, died in August 2022, soon after Miyake, Mohan and Ayesha decided to donate her designer collection, raising funds for Child Rights and You (CRY). A private collector, who prefers to stay anonymous, has bought it. “Mina had a lifelong association with CRY; it’s where she sent her first salary cheque. So CRY was an obvious choice,” explains Mohan, who doesn’t want to share how much money they raised.

“My wife loved to wear her Miyake clothes as second skin. She wore them to music concerts, restaurants, even to the hospital for her check-ups towards the end,” says Mohan. “She didn’t treat them as designer clothes. It was a way of life for her.”

The exhibition is on at 47-A, Khotachiwadi, Mumbai, till 30 March.

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