Woman in profile gazing into a warm light, wearing Indian Carousel Scarf by Babuji Rajendra Shilpi - from Alba Amicorum, with the Elle magazine logo superimposed

ELLE, India

Art On Scarves:
Keeping A Family’s
Heritage Alive

Artist Darshana Shilpi Rouget of Alba Amicorum on the reinterpretation of her father’s historical work.

Situated in the heart of historical Belgravia in London, atelier Alba Amicorum is a tasteful studio and shop of wearable art and luxury scarves. Founded and conceptualised by artist, graphic designer, and collector Darshana Shilpi Rouget, the studio took roots in 2020. “Born into an artist family, art has always been a part of my life,” Rouget shares. We deep-dive into her career trajectory and the making of her brainchild. In 1986, Rouget landed in the Big Apple on a FIT New York special scholarship and, for the next 20 years, continued to call the city her home. But it was in London thereafter where she found her niche. “One day, I literally stretched the canvas, and it folded over—the image looked so different than how it was. It was an interesting way to perceive art, not completely flat, the way it’s generally supposed to be—that’s how I picked scarfas the medium. Because it folds and changes, which forces the viewer to see it in a more intimate, abstract and personal way.” Rouget has collaborated with brands such as Tiffany & Co. and Cartier—and yet, her most memorable piece of work stems out of her lineage. In 2020, she crafted a collection of scarves around the work of her late father, renowned Indian multidisciplinary artist Babuji Rajendra Shilpi, whose work was a celebration of Indian heritage and ancient arts. “My father always involved my brother and me in pretty much everything he did. He always had time for us and was very encouraging. But the biggest learning from my creative family is to be open to different perspectives—because that is what art is all about. To be the least judgemental person you can be, as you’re trying to understand every person’s point of view,” Rouget says.

Pigment To Print
While most of Shilpi’s esteemed work is already sold, Rouget chose to revive the painting that was still owned by the family. Titled ‘Indian Carousel’ and originally painted using gouache (highly opaque watercolour) in 1943, it showcases his observation of the pre-independence Indian society. It draws inspiration from Jain and Buddhist paintings and concludes with a vision of India at peace. Rouget explains, “The work that I chose has a personal meaning to it. He was enthusiastic about me reviving his work, but sadly, he passed away due to dementia a few years later, so he didn’t even remember it was his work. I recall him explaining the story behind this painting when I was a child, and it stayed with me, making it the perfect one to start with.”

The second painting Rouget chose Rougetwas a completely contrasting piece of surrealist art, a swift departure from Shilpi’s otherwise traditional body of work. About rendering the two contradicting paintings on a scarf digitally, Rouget recalls, “Luckily, the paintings I chose aligned with the format I use, except for the change of scale. The originals are smaller in size, but thanks to my graphic design background, I was able to match the colours and get the scans right. It took me a while to find the perfect production house to print these, but the Italian house I found understands fine art and the sensitivity of detail. Except for the fact that it’s not paper, what you see on the scarf, is pretty close to the real painting. We choose the fabric according to the art—for instance, the ‘Indian Carousel’ is printed on silk to bring out the vibrancy; modal and cashmere for them surrealist painting, to recreate the dark, moody aesthetic.”With more to be reimagined from Shilpi’s extensive treasure trove, Alba Amicorum presents itself as the ideal example of ‘back to the future’. Since its launch in 2020, Rouget has collaborated with a rare selection of artists and creatives; Some the notable names are the Man Ray Trust, prima ballerinas Misako Kato and Juliet Burnett, Indonesian artist Joel Benguigui, Mongolian artist Shagdarjavin Chimeddorj, New York-based writer Ross Klavan, American painter, sculptor, and print-maker Deni Javas, American photographer James T Murray, and American artist Mary Jones.