THE WORLD AT YOUR FEET
As someone rightly said you can and you do have the world at your feet, if only you could see it. Being mindful and paying careful attention to each step of mine as I travelled through the busy city of New York, I lingered for inspiration ground-up, quite literally, to design this fashion lineup as a part my college assignment. Like silent bystanders, the manhole cover records each impression of every pedestrian, as his or her feet make direct contact with it daily.Varying patterns in relief and natural blended hues due to aging, lend a vintage look, validating this unassuming, seamless feature of the street as an artifact. One that imprints the past, present and the future.
Delving into it’s history, context, manufacturing process and research on it’s functionality, led me to a number of rather intriguing ethnographic research studies.
Interviewing plumbers who had first hand tactile experience with the ‘underworld’ of drains and pedestrians from diverse cultures led me further to some invaluable insights and helped me recognize the aesthetic perception of this unassuming but indispensable cover.
Understanding it's production and installation further led to some points of exploration - through photography of the drain covers, sifting through rubbings and prints of textures, stains and the drain’s material environment (inclusive of sound recordings that were visually translated through graphs). These insights were not only a spark to my graphical, collaging and digital ideations but also helped to add dimension to my perspective, in order to follow through with some 3D experimentations in wood, paper, cardboard and textile manipulations.
While the research manifested itself in the most unexpected forms visually and tangibly- the diversity was sublime, yet it’s universality was preserved in the factual statistics of a manhole being there almost within every five strides of a New Yorker. However, no two manhole covers were the same- all manufactured in one factory at the same time, yet the minute they were installed they each began ‘uncovering’ their own history.
Changing locations meant changing vibes- spots like the East village, the MET, the subway, Broadway theater locales were intriguing in this respect, as each had it’s unmistakable aura while sharing common ground, literally.
Playing with scale, layering to create silhouettes and opacities, my attempt has been to reflect the beauty of these patterns of man hole covers in garments while reflecting the vibe of each of these places in its styling and look. Maneuvering through nuances of whites has allowed these patterns to be enhanced and has highlighted the contrast of the dirt absorbed by a sewer, thus giving rise to a capsule collection with five distinct personalities, in five compelling looks.