The #InspiredbyIndia campaign is a celebration of Indian art, architecture and design. From international designers who’ve fallen in love with India, and Indian designers who’ve put Indian design on the global map, the campaign will feature some of the biggest names in the industry.
As part of this campaign we interviewed American textile designer Peter D’Ascoli came to India when he was 20 years old, and fell in love with the country. During the 2 years that he spent travelling in India, he was awed by the art and culture of this ancient civilisation. Although he moved back to New York and eventually worked as the studio director for the legendary Diane von Furntenberg, his love for India eventually lured him back. In 2006, Dacoli founded the Talianna Studio in New Delhi — a design and product development atelier, creating luxury fabrics for interior decoration. In a brief tete-a-tete with Dascoli, he tells us about his fascination for textiles and Indian craftsmanship.
You came to India when you were 22 years old. After working for a few years in New York, you came back to India to set up your own studio. Tell us about your initial journey, and what about India prompted you to come back and set up your practice here.
Dascoli: I first came to India when I was 20 years old – it was a summer job the year before my graduation from design school at the Fashion Institute Of Technology and I was working for a menswear designer. It was on that trip that India’s Ministry Of Textiles came to know me and invited me to return after graduation to work with artisans with the hope that a New York native might bring a new perspective to the textiles crafts of India. I did return and worked in India for the next two years, traveling across the length and breadth of the country working with weavers, printers, and embroiderers. It was during this time that I developed a deep love for Indian art and culture, and the friendships forged in those days allowed me to return many years later after I observed the effects technology and globalization was having on the world of textiles and fashion. When I returned to India many years later it was with the idea that the world was ready for a niche brand created and made in India using ancient and modern techniques while delivering the value found in such a direct form of creation, making, and selling without so many middlemen.
Why this fascination for textiles? When did you decide to work with textiles?
Dascoli: Ever since I was a young child I was always interested in drawing and painting, and it seemed that graphics and colours activated some sort of chemical pleasure in my brain. Creating and sharing the artwork I was always creating became a central part of identity, and all my teachers assumed that I would study and work somewhere in the world of art and design. When it came time to select a University my High School art teacher recommended I study textile design at the Fashion Institute Of Technology in nearby Manhattan. That is how I stumbled into the worlds of Fashion and Interior Decoration…through my love of drawing and painting.
Your favourite collection so far, the inspiration and why is it your favourite?
Dascoli: I do not have a favourite colour, nor do I have a favourite collection or type of inspiration. I always think of that saying, “diversity is the spice of life,’ and what really excites me is the unexpected mix and influences from diverse sources. This type of mingling of cultural influences has been happening since antiquity, from the time the first tribes began trading with each other.
What about Indian crafts and design fascinates you the most?
Dascoli: India’s place in the world of art and culture has been extremely rich since the dawn of civilisation, and the subcontinent’s dominance in the realm of pre-industrial textiles – both technical and aesthetic – is a well known fact. As a result India has, over thousands of years, created the standard for much of our global textile design vocabulary, and the history of design in most of the rest of the world involves copying the aesthetics first created in India. And this, along with the fact that many of these pre-industrial techniques are still being used. Hand spinning, weaving, embroidery, and printing techniques that were first developed here thousands of years ago and were adopted and then died out across the globe are still practiced here. This fascinates me!
Who/What inspires you?
Dascoli: I am inspired by many artists and designers – both alive and dead. I would list the architect Robert Adam and the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent as two examples of creators who studied beyond their narrow disciplines to view their work holistically, with a ‘lifestyle’ approach that encompassed all aspects of living culture. It is this cultivation of aesthetics as they apply to all aspects of life that inspires me. I also find that researching the history of the cultures of the world, both in their arts and crafts but also in their politics and societies, sets my mind spinning with ideas and possibilities.
Do you have a favourite kind of textile that you enjoy working with? Tell us why.
Dascoli: My background in design has always involved business, and this has ranged from the top end of the market with handmade, luxury products, down to the middle market where large scale volume demands mass, industrial production. Both of these arenas involve different manufacturing processes and business results, and both are gratifying in different way. It is impressive to see one’s designs spread widely in showrooms across an entire continent, and it is equally satisfying to create a precious, handmade design that few will see or can afford. I adore all the techniques involved in making textiles, including spinning yarns, weaving, printing, and embroidery. Each of these techniques also varies between hand or machine, small batch versus volume production. I do not have favourites as all together these are like individual instruments in an orchestra, without which we could not hear the fullness of the symphony.