Bangladesh at London Design Festival

Virtual 'tepaputul' (traditional clay dolls). Gabrielle Shiner-Hill and Nusrat Mahmud of Bureau 555 pose with the clay dollsBureau 555

London Design Festival is 20 years old this year. At the invitation of the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum, a Bangladeshi organisation is joining the Digital Design Weekend to commemorate the two decades of the London Design Festival.

The magnificent design fest to celebrate the 20 years of the London Design Festival will take place at the London's iconic Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) from 17 to 25 September. As part of the events, for the first time Bangladesh's traditional designs will be on virtual display at the Digital Design Weekend. The startup Bureau 555 and the research-based art platform Brihatta Art Foundation will jointly take part from 23 to 25 September at V&A.

Artist Bishwajit prepares canvas for printing at Brihatta Art Foundation in Dhaka
Brihatta Art Foundation

Co-founder of both the organisations, Nusrat Mahmud, spoke in detail about their virtual design ideas, interesting tidbits and how they were invited to the event.

Bangladesh presentation

Nusrat Mahmud said that augmented reality will be used to present the digital design skills. The main objective of this presentation is to inspire social and environmental awareness by highlighting Bangladesh's traditional handicrafts through the digital medium. The exhibit depicts a bridging of the past, present and future of Bangladesh's traditional handicrafts, nature, people and technology.

The two organisations will be represented by the co-founders artist Biswajit Goswami and Nusrat Mahmud, another co-founder of Bureau 555, fashion and textile designer Gabrielle Shiner-Hill and the AFM Muniruzzaman, teacher at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.

Bangladesh's handicraft will be highlighted through this exhibition and the handicraft designs will be transformed into digital resource which can be used as for product design and product development purposes. This will considerably cut down on carbon emissions in the supply chain.

Block printing at Brihatta Art Foundation in Dhaka
Brihatta Art Foundation

The visitors will have the chance to interact in this event. They will be invited to actually black print jamdani motifs on actual fabric. The design will be digitised and the visitors will be able to virtually place this on any item of their liking, to be designed by means of augmented reality. A bridge between the real world and the digital world will be planned in this way.

At the end of the Design Weekend, some of the augmented reality characters created by these two organisations will be auctioned.

The invitation

Bureau 555 was launched in February this year and it is through this initiative that the invitation came for this special event. This startup received grants from the British Council and the University of Arts, London when it was set up. It became a part of a network of various individuals and organisations working with the same aim. Many persons who were active in sustainable design, contemporary use of handicrafts, and using the digital medium to protect the environment, showed interest in this organisation. It was well publicised in UK too. Then a representative of the University of Arts, London informed them that V&A was interested to discuss the matter. The museum contacted them and asked if they were interested in joining the Digital Design Weekend. That is how they arrived at this international platform.

Block printing by the Brihatta Art Foundation community in Dhaka

Planning and implementation

It was no easy task to create an impression that would startle and impress. Along with the Brihatta Art Foundation, Nusrat began chalking out plans along with Biswajit and Gabrielle. There were certain things that she kept in mind, particularly highlighting Bangladesh's heritage accurately and reducing carbon emissions from the supply chain. Accordingly, they planned to give come up with contemporary form by creating a digital fashion framework based on the heritage of handicrafts.

Jamdani was chosen as the most popular and traditional handicraft motif of Bangladesh. Then they took up the challenge of digitising the motifs and placing it on other items and also seeing if anyone could create their own design from this. It was also a challenged to place the motifs on an attractive item for the presentation of augmented reality.

At the Bureau 555 office in Dhaka
Bureau 555

Nusrat and her team did so, dressing the almost extinct 'tepaputul' (traditional clay doll) with digital outfits. The skirt was decorated with jamdani motifs and the entire design was presented by means of augmented reality. This was done in such a manner than anyone present at the event could do so easily and even take pictures in this augmented reality with the 'tepaputul' dressed in clothes of their design.

The Victoria & Albert Museum is the hub of art and craft lovers. The long-lost muslin of Bangladesh is preserved here along with many rare jamdani samples.

This joint initiative by Bureau 555 and Brihatta Art Foundation is a big event for the digital fashion of this country. This is the first time an exhibition of Bangladesh fashion was ever held in this prestigious museum.