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Amit Sood Leads Google’s New We Wear Culture Site on Fashion

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By Jawahar Malhotra

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA: For all those fashionistas, and others who struggle with the right terms, like pret-a-porter or haute couture, life just good a little easier with Google’s latest foray into the world of fashion with We Wear Culture, a website which was launched last month and is being unveiled at events across globe. And it’s no coincidence that this initiative is being led by a Bombay-born Indian in his mid-30s, Amit Sood who works out of a Manhattan office.

The internet giant is well known for the number of Indians at its helm, chief among them being Sundar Pichai who once ran Google Chrome and later the Android division and now is Google’s CEO. Then there are Nikesh Arora, the Sr. VP and Chief Business Officer; Amit Singhal, Sr. VP and Google Fellow; Vic Gundotra, Sr VP, Engineering; Krishna Bharat, Principal Scientist; Lalitesh Katragadda, Head of research for emerging markets; and Manik Gupta, Sr Product Manager, Google Maps. This is in a company where 30 percent of the workers are Asian, 12% of which is made up of Indians, and Google expects to have 13,000 people working India, most at its Hyderabad office.

In such an environment, it didn’t seem unusual for Sood, a novice in the world of fashion, to take the top post at the new initiative, which is actually an expansion of Google’s Art & Culture project, an online platform which he formed in 2011, and became available in 2016 as an app you can download. The app boasts you can visit “1,000 museums in 70 countries” and has many large partners like the British Museum, the Getty in Los Angeles and many other smaller, lesser known museums including many in India.

The new We Wear Culture initiative allows fashion lovers to view over 39,000 garments in collections at more than 180 museums, schools and fashion institutions including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Kyoto Costume Institute in Japan and the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. The site which Google says  “brings three millennia of fashion at your fingertips,” allow users to peek into exhibits, search by designers or the even things or people which influenced them and offers virtual videos, like the 360-degree display of the Frida Kahlo’s fashion dresses at her namesake museum in Mexico.

Sood, a 10-year veteran of Google, has been the director of Google Cultural Institute, a non-profit initiative that runs the Google Arts and Culture platform, which was an outcome of the 20 Percent Time policy in Google to encourage creative ideas and personal projects that might help the company. A novice in the world of fashion, he struggled with its subtleties but had a vision to make fashion accessible to people the world over.

Sood was a quick study into the subject.  He has met with many well-placed people in the industry, including designers and museum curators and traveled to many countries to piece together the elements of the site. And in doing so, he has changed the way that people can access and appreciate art, culture and fashion without even leaving their homes on a computer or a smartphone. There are many Indian partner sites too which are featured and this offers many noteworthy collections and designers, who would otherwise not get such exposure, to be able to reach a wider global audience.

One subject of the new website could be the works of fashion designers Donatella Versace who has turned to another South Asian, the British born 24 year-old Zayn Malik (whose father is Pakistan) as a lead designer for her contemporary line, Versus. Malik recently decided to quit as the lead singer for One Direction.

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