A Brief Look at Indian Clothing’s Recent Influence on Western Fashion
by Andrew Veloz • Aug 26, 2020 | STYLE

In today’s society, our everyday lives get to connect and experience glimpses of other countries without us taking much notice. After all, it is safe to assume that the electronics we own are from China or Japan, the Avocados we eat are from Mexico, and the cars we drive are assembled and imported from a multitude of countries, all making way for our local consumption. Moreover, the extraordinary level of communication we possess not only further cements the interdependence of economic exchanges but also adds a new dimension of cultural influence. When merged, these factors result in a contemporary conception of globalization, which increases the interdependence of states regardless of distance. In effect, globalization shifts conceptualizing the world from individualism to interconnecting communities.

Globalization facilitates the introduction of various ideas from one country to another. These ideas range from values on the government, economic policies, and the clothes that we wear. In this light, fashion has been one area unquestionably affected by globalization. Production-wise, clothing has a similar fate to the trading items discussed formally, as globalization has made it easier for companies to manufacture and distribute clothing throughout different markets. But from an artistic point of view, clothing has increasingly become infused with various styles found across the globe. In particular, the mixture of aesthetic influences from different parts of Asia has become a staple in western culture. When looking at India, there was a mixed level of attention that her fashion industry received in previous decades. Despite this delay, India has started to garner more attention in the world of fashion than it previously had, due to globalization.  

It is important to note that India’s historical relation to the West, most prominently, the British empire control from 1858 to 1947 left a lasting impact on both nations. The popularity of Indian cuisine and decorations has taken a welcoming place in English society in the last decades, with Indian immigration from various parts of the United Kingdom becoming more prevalent since then. 

Unlike other Asian countries like South Korea or Japan, India’s ability to enter a similar conversation on the artistic exchange with the West was less pronounced. Even if one were to look at popular mediums like television or music, it was safe to say that Bollywood did not have the same reach that K-Pop or Anime did in the last decade. Even in terms of Clothing, Harajuku and Stylenanda had a more significant impact on popular fashion than perhaps Indian brands or most fashion brands within Asia. As a result, it was more challenging to be conscious of the artistic and cultural values present in India. This consciousness becomes essential when looking at how clothing has developed in both parts of the world, with how western clothing has dramatically evolved in the last two centuries, often mixing and tailoring styles to fit various functions.

On the other hand, Indian clothing has slowly evolved in style, not to say that clothing has not changed at all in India, but the progression has been slower, reflecting the more conservative lining of the country. Even with increased usage of Western Clothing in India, traditional articles of clothing like the saree have remained a fundamental part of Indian dress culture. Most of the design for the Saree has stayed the same, even with specific colors or patterns adapted for the contemporary woman, which, when put into perspective, something like the Saree would perhaps not appeal to the young American or French woman in years prior. 

Indian Influence on Jean Paul Gaultier

Despite these decade long issues, there has been a change in the accommodation and integration of Indian Clothing into the Western world. In 2008, “Jean Paul Gaultier’s ready to wear collection was a tribute to India. The Indian inspired fashion collection started with androgynous outfits that were inspired by quintessentially male Indian attires like the Jodhpur pants, Nehru jackets, and band galas”. The pieces of clothing in the collection represent much of the standard wardrobe throughout India. Without disregarding the original design’s appropriateness, Gaultier’s collection seemed to enhance and reevaluate what can be considered regular clothing for a casual day. The modifications to the clothing brought an element of witty lavishness to western design that was needed to revamp the look of the typical cosmopolitan consumer. Without disregarding the appropriateness of the original design, Gaultier’s collection seemed to enhance and reevaluate what can be considered regular clothing for a casual day. As opposed to previous years, there appeared to be a genuine emphasis on incorporating Indian fashion into high-end fashion. Time has become serviceable for Indian Clothing in a way that perhaps it has not been previously. 

Gaultier’s collection readily used traditional designs to bring forth a different manner of interpreting the colors and fabrics from a Western sensibility. The result is intriguing and does well to service the brilliance of Indian design and culture. The same trend in high fashion continued with the 2012-2013 Winter Channel collection that “drew inspiration from the Maharaja era and created “Paris’ version of the idea of India.” The clothing showcased the versatility of Indian design by flawlessly integrating brighter colors and shiny fabrics in a typically more neutral and safe piece of clothing like a winter coat. In effect, Indian influence on Western Clothing has placed a genuine curiosity and a certain new elegant vibrance towards making clothing. Indian patterns are a lot more abstract than typical American or English clothing forms. To make things much more interesting, one has to move away from the comfort zone, which is where Indian designs shine. They are elaborated in swirling tints and patterns that move away from the simpler shades that predominate in the West. Consequently, American designers can afford to be a bit more adventurous in their attempts to create something new. The way that high fashion translates to everyday clothing is more complicated, but the flow of these different ideas helps redirect Western Clothing a new direction.

India’s ability to have its say in the greater world of clothing is one to anticipate. But why did such a change occur? As earlier stated, the increasing globalization has made it easier for individuals to connect with the rest of the world. Japan and South Korea were able to integrate sooner than India because of their higher level of industrialization and liberalization in the previous century. When integrated into the world economy, it is easier to export ideas and innovation, which is why some of the most economically stable countries are also socially liberally and diverse. India has developed economically and has been able to have more outreach and communication with other parts of the world, though not without difficulty. In virtue of this development, the rise in Indian movies, music, clothing, and general culture has seeped more into Westerners’ minds. The Indian Clothing that once seemed neglected now becomes a new culture that sparks the interest and keeps the attention of many fashion connoisseurs.

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Written by
Andrew Veloz
Contributing writer on Fashion, Culture, and Creative Features.
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