Historically, Indian society has been well known for its rigid caste system. But the country's rapid modernisation and growing economic power (in 2012 the country's economy surpassed Japan's in terms of GDP) are prompting the establishment and rise of a new middle class.
As the Indian film industry recently celebrated its one-hundredth birthday, the luxurious silk sarees from the red carpets and the film sets are becoming more and more accessible to the public. Indian designers are adjusting to this ever-increasing demand by diversifying their collections, offering products across the huge price range that aspiring Indians are willing to pay.
Often consumers' aspirations are greater than their pocketbooks can accommodate, so the task for designers will increasingly be to offer affordable yet luxurious goods. Considering the quality of fabrics and the manual processes traditionally involved, this task will certainly not be easy. Veteran designer Ritu Kumar recently expressed her concerns about the diminishing role of traditional techniques, and is supporting their revival and preservation.
The question is, will the exploding size, influence and purchasing power of the Indian middle class threaten the very techniques which go into the production of the clothes they value so much as a hallmark of wealth and success?