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Indian Fashion And Textiles

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 3224 words Published: 3rd May 2017

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‘Indian fashion’ is rich in tradition, vibrant in colour and beautiful. Bold colour and metallic’s created by the inventive drapes of these textile catches the imagination like no other contemporary clothing. Some Indian dress designers combine western trends with an Indian touch, creating garments which are outstanding. (www.wordiq.com)

The Indian traditional fashion is vast and influential throughout the world. It is one of the richest cultures. The culture of India is an amalgamation of diverse sub-cultures like languages, textiles, crafts, dance, architects, food and customs.

In Textile Surface Decoration, Margo Singer argues that, India has its own ancient tradition of silk weaving and can boast many indigenous silk moths. The country produces several types of silk. India became a major exporter of silk and is still the largest producer of silk after China. It also has a vibrant tradition of block printing (often using indigo), which dates back many centuries. Traditional techniques are still used today. Indian textiles have been exported since the 15th century; today the main textiles centres are Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, where block printing workshops still produce fabrics dyed with vegetable and chemical dyes for clothing, furnishing and fashion exports.

British India

15th-16th century

As written by Beverly Lemire and Giorgio Riello, the trade of textiles from India to European countries was seen in 12th and 13th century (Ottoman period) where silk was imported from Asian countries like India and China.

Emergence of fashion in Europe was visible in the revolutionary commodities painted and printed Indian cotton textiles which came in seen towards the end of the 15th century. These textiles represented the Asian imports into Europe, showed the widespread consumption of Indian textiles and also worked as a source of inspiration for European manufacturers. By the early sixteenth century, imports increased which in turn attracted generations of Europeans due to the unmatched brilliance and fastness of colour and the striking designs of printed Indian cottons. European fashion in this century was not just created through the adoption and use of Indian goods but it was shaped by the Indian culture, motifs and techniques used.

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Ritu Kumara a famous Indian designer in her book Costumes and Textiles of Royal India stated that in 1601 that British East India company had established centres for trade in India in cities like Madras, Surat, Calcutta and Bombay. In this century British began to develop textiles for their own markets. They expanded and established factories in India and started exporting to other countries. They exported silk ikats, cotton pieces goods, indigo and fine embroideries from cities like Gujarat in western India and Bengal in eastern. According to her, England was not the only European country where Indian textiles were popular ,places like France were also charmed by the widespread heritage of India.

(Costumes and Textiles of Royal India by Ritu Kumar,1999 pg.52,53 and 54)

17th-18th century

Indian cotton textiles first started to appear in the first decade of the 17th century in the form of Chintz which refers to, any floral printed furnishing fabric, made of cotton or linen, and often glazed. It is often defined as Indian cloth on which a pattern has been produce by hand drawing with a bamboo pen’ (kalam) and dyeing with mordant’s and resists. They are originated from the south -east India, in the area that came to be known by European as the Coromandel Coast. Influence of chintz has been in the form of coverlet, quilt, hanging, plates, dress, overdress, petticoat and other form of garments which are present in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

(Rosemary Crill,)

As Ritu Kumar refers to the history and writes that the demand for Indian textiles had reached such heights in 17th century in the British and French culture which resulted in prohibition of anyone wearing or using any Indian textiles so as to promote their own silk and textiles. But these prohibitions were difficult to impose and failed and the trade continued. She also writes that, by the 18th century dresses made of Indian muslins and the woven shawls which were draped over them became fashionable. The Kashmir shawl was one of the most sought after luxuries in Europe by the end of the 18th century which was very expensive and was exported from northern India.

Ritu Kumar stated that Forbes Watson acknowledged, that the intrinsic aesthetic refinement of India’s clothing required an understanding of oriental tastes which according to him would ensure a market in India for the same. His study advocated the sophistication of colour and form of India’s textiles in order that English manufacturers might achieve the sense of rhythm and harmony inherent in them. He explained that British manufacturers followed a rule of exporting or making things with an essence of British culture rather than taking its true Indian form which in turn failed as Indian manufacturers could do it best originally and the products value decreased when it lost its true essence. And thus realising the fact how a charm of an Indian product was with its true colour and not modified.

In her book evidences of trade from the east to the west can be seen till the early 20th century in wardrobes of the royal British.

(Costumes and Textiles of Royal India by Ritu Kumar,1999 pg.55,62 and 63)


Just like a painting, or a song, fashion also plays a main role in the fusion of different cultures and influences. Eastern and Western cultures engage in an important part in the Fashion trends of today. These two are fused in the fashion industry in many ways, the British borrowing from the Russians, India from the French, Japan and Germany, and the list continues.

According to Priyanka Arora, Since 1890 till the present world fashion has seen tremendous influences from the Indian culture in the British fashion resulting from the artists and designers renowned interest in Art Nouveau. She believes that Indian textiles and work can be seen in any store or designer line. Eastern inspired clothing like embroidered tunics, beaded necklines on dresses and shirts, jewelled handbags in Sari fabrics, reminiscing different characteristics from the East have been influencing British designers . Pashminas, for example, are now an everyday basic item for most British women. Around the 1940’s the Nehru jacket became a big trend and thanks to The Beatles and it is still an acclaimed collar style in shirts, coats and jackets. Even pagoda sleeves was an eastern trend which was incorporated in western fashion. The most noted designers according to her bidding on exotic eastern style in their creations are: Max Mara, exploring sexy necklines and strong fabrics ,Armani, Jean Paul Gautier and Versace are only some of the top names reaching out to their masculine lines by including eastern elements to their creations, like pants made with fabrics, necklines, printed belts and sandals with the use of heavy silk. She also argues that the Boho Chic look, on the other hand is a representation of western influence on eastern culture. Thus concluding by saying that its a unique style where one can appreciate the fusion of both worlds with the modern and contemporary side of the western fashion and just a hint of eastern flair in the jewels and beading. Season to season, we see fashion face some radical changes, but the east and west mixture is inescapable, resulting always in a beautiful, artistic and also commercial masterpiece representing a multicultural society of designers and consumers.


Laura Jacob writes and depicts about work of renowned designers from all around the world in the book ‘The Art of Haute Couture(SKREBNESKI)’ in which Christian Lacroix collection of 1990 shows a gown which has high end Indian embroidery with hand accessories influenced from India.

(The Art of Haute Couture(SKREBNESKI)by Laura Jacob)

Salvatore Ferragamo’s famous customers in the late 1930’s was Indira Devi, the maharani of Cooch Behar. Ferragamo had designed about 100 shoes for her which were adorned with pearls, rubies, emeralds and diamonds which were sent from India by the maharani. These were reproduced for his collection in the year 2003 for an opening of a new store.

As Laura McLean -Ferris has written about KENZO a world famous designer who evolved in 1970’s that his designs are a combination of details which have been taken from all around the globe, creating a fusion of folklore styles that vibrate with a blend of fantasy and reality. Which brings out the importance of fusion of a cultures in her view of the designers work. It also talks about how KENZO used both east and west traditions together to create an aesthetic that is globally appealing.

(fashioning fabric)

2000 and beyond

As Elyssa da Cruz quoted for the Indian based designer Manish Arora who emerged on the London runway in late 2005.His work embodies western modishness and native Indian symbolism, all manifest in a lavish array of textiles. The opulence of his label derives from the textiles revived back in India and crafted into a contemporary western silhouettes’.

Ashish considered as a lead figure in the new generation of British fashion, his work is a blend of contrast of eastern and western cultures .His use of traditional and contemporary design with high quality textiles and Indian handcrafting techniques has marked its importance in the global fashion.(IC)

Jennifer Trak has talked about designers’ Abujani & Sandeep Khosla are synonymous with classic Indian style and elegantly draped silhouettes. Creative use of materials like sequin, pearls against lavish fabrics have made their garments the choice of numerous celebrities from Bollywood and Hollywood.

Laura Mc Lean-Ferris has quoted about KENZO’s 2005 collection which was called ‘An English Garden in India’ autumn/winter 2005.this collection was inspired by heavy Indian embroideries, Indian silks and taffeta’s.

EDC has shown glimpses of Christian Lacroix autumn/winter 2002 collection which shows multi coloured rustic paisley pattern embroidery which is a very famous Indian motif.

Dries Van Noten a Avant garde designer has proven himself to be a visionary couturier whose multi-ethnic inspired designs have always been a hit in the fashion world. He believes in global perspective ,reinterpreting existing themes, motifs, traditional hand-crafting techniques from diverse locales such as northern Africa, India and Japan to create his designs. His work has been highly inspired by Indian textiles which can be seen in his collections of autumn/winter 2006 and 2007.

(fashioning fabric)

Shikha Chadha Bhatia expands about the Indian fashion and designers and states that India has been one of the developing international markets along with China. She feels with India Fashion happening twice a year, starting in 2003, local designers are recognising the need for collections with more of an international appeal.

She unveils the collections and thoughts of Indian Designers as follows:

Ravi Bajaj one of the leading fashion designer of India says that,

“The Indian fashion industry is on the brink of change. Not only are Indian designers increasingly staging catwalk shows abroad but, in an effort to appeal to an international market, they are creating alternatives to themes synonymous with Indian fashion such as heavy embroidery, loud colours and traditional motifs. Taking inspiration from other cultures, Indian designers are increasingly aiming for global appeal.”

Ritu Kumar, one of India’s most well-respected designers believes that, despite the changes, Indian fashion has kept its signature. “For the last two years, embellishments on clothes are changing, silhouettes have an international look, but overall thematically the essence is Indian.”

She says India’s edge comes from its textile tradition as costly textile processes like stone-washing and tie dye are more affordable in India than in the west. Kumar also points out that textiles are more varied because manufacture is not fully mechanised and so allows for smaller runs and experimentation.

Kiran Uttam Ghosh,Indian Designer his spring/summer 2003 collection has been inspired bohemian colour and the exuberance of pattern.it reveals 70s hippie look featuring patchwork, mismatched sleeve lengths and uneven hemlines. Tiered chiffon, hipsters, kaftans and tie dye shirts are key in a rainbow of colours including hot pink, acid yellow, coral, turquoise, blood red, ivory and black.



Cezca Chanelle states about Indian handbags getting a global recognition in reference to the following designers like, Designer Judith Leiber the luxury American handbag brand collaborated with an Indian renowned designer Suneet Verma in 2008 to design a collection of couture handbags and clutches. Suneet Verma designed Ganesha bags that have been used as art deco pieces which were flaunted by style icons like Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker and the famous singer Jennifer Lopez on the red carpet.

She states about Meera Mahadevia an handbag designer whose metal bags embellished with stones were showcased at the Vendome Luxury Exhibition in Paris earlier this year. Her couture collection retails in luxury stores like Neiman Marcus in the US and Selfridges in London.

She also refers to another Mumbai-based handbag designer Nandini Mariwala whose clientele includes Hollywood stars like Lindsay Lohan and Halle Berry as well as international royalty. Her current collection of day bags which is a limited edition are hand-knotted and embroidered which are sold via luxury store Harrods in London.

She comments that,” Maybe it’s time Louis Vuitton and Prada took a back seat now.”


Spring 2009 Trend Reports for women fashion by style.com

In the Marrakech Express theme based collections of Marc Jacobs, Reem Acra and Tibi influences of Indian silhouettes and work can be clearly seen which depicts the power of Indian fashion.

http://www.style.com/trendsshopping/trendreport/011309/slideshow?loop=0HYPERLINK “http://www.style.com/trendsshopping/trendreport/011309/slideshow?loop=0&iphoto=75&play=false&cnt=47″&HYPERLINK “http://www.style.com/trendsshopping/trendreport/011309/slideshow?loop=0&iphoto=75&play=false&cnt=47″iphoto=75HYPERLINK “http://www.style.com/trendsshopping/trendreport/011309/slideshow?loop=0&iphoto=75&play=false&cnt=47″&HYPERLINK “http://www.style.com/trendsshopping/trendreport/011309/slideshow?loop=0&iphoto=75&play=false&cnt=47″play=falseHYPERLINK “http://www.style.com/trendsshopping/trendreport/011309/slideshow?loop=0&iphoto=75&play=false&cnt=47″&HYPERLINK “http://www.style.com/trendsshopping/trendreport/011309/slideshow?loop=0&iphoto=75&play=false&cnt=47″cnt=47

Spring/Summer 2010 trends for interiors by WGSN

The trend speaks about the glamour and eccentricity of staged entertainment, revel in a sense of drama and satirical humour. Embrace outrageous and unconventional decorative combinations from the East and West, old and new, to create a surreal, playful environment. The designs being Western but the inspiration of play of colours being Eastern has given this trend and collections an edge to the others.

And as quoted by Elsa Schiaparelli,

“In difficult times fashion is always outrageous.”

I believe it justifies that different things or cultures can be put together even if one is different from the other to create something that is outrageous.


WGSN has aggressive plans for Indian fashion industry

August 06, 2009 (India)

WGSN, world’s leading fashion and style forecaster, in 2009 has updated for a partnership with the fast growing fashion retail market in India. They also announced their Global Trends Style Forecast for season 2010-2011.It will be focusing on the Fashion designers, manufacturers and retailers to partner and help them in moving up the value chain to tap opportunities in local and global fashion industry. This shows the importance and development of the Indian fashion market and its influence globally.

As Juliet Warkentin, Head Content WGSN said,

“With a rich and diverse cultural history and huge talent base, we believe India has the potential to play a major role in global fashion Industry. With Indian companies across sectors making a global impact, it’s now turn for Indian fashion industry. And at WGSN we want to share our knowledge and experience to partner the Indian fashion industry in their quest to be world class players”.


Role of Culture

As Michel Klein (designer) quoted in the book Yves Saint Laurent (Forty Years of creation), without looking back to the past, without playing with disguise, he created a contemporary fashion with very “cultural” inspiration. For YSL the influence of culture in all its aspect is only a source of inspiration.


Consumer behaviour

Consumer behavior is the study of when, why, how, and where people do or do not buy a product. It blends elements from psychology, sociology, social anthropology and economics. It attempts to understand the buyer decision making process, both individually and in groups. It studies characteristics of individual consumers such as demographics and behavioral variables in an attempt to understand people’s wants. It also tries to assess influences on the consumer from groups such as family, friends, reference groups, and society in general.


As Maria Costantino has explained consumer behaviour provides a number of concepts that help fashion marketers think about and understand their customers, and market research provides techniques for measuring those concepts. Understanding consumer and their buying behaviour draws heavily on psychology and anthropology as well cultural history.


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