Fashion houses across the world are looking to India for inspiration - is India the fashion flavour of the month again or will it make a longer-lasting impression this time?
Remember the 1970s when the cheesecloth shirt and the Madras Checks were all the rage in the west? And when paisley and Rajasthan prints swept through 1980s London? Those were short-lived trends. This time however, the consensus is the impact will be more lasting as many Indian designers have created an extension of their retailing in Mumbai and Delhi in New York and London. Indian designers have been trying to make steady inroads onto foreign shores for years. Things started with Bina Ramani, one of the first Indian designers to make it in the Big Apple when Bloomingdales gave her two windows displays and a full-page advertisement in The New York Times.
The real initial impact of Indian fashion in the west was probably felt in 1995 when I took Wendell Rodericks to the Igedo Fashion Fair in Dusseldorf Germany. It was the first time an Indian designer had shown on the German catwalk. Soon, he was followed by a full Indian show of eight designers at Igedo featuring Hemant Trevedi, Rocky S, Ritu Beri, Sangeeta Desai, Pawan Aswani, Salim Asgar Ali, and Bhairavi Jaikishan. Anita Dongre, Lina Tipnis, Narendra Kumar Ahmad and Bhamini Subramanian have also presented their collections in Dusseldorf. By the 21st century stores that stock exclusive Indian designers have made their mark in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
Bollywood has been instrumental in promoting Indian fashion abroad through its box office hits, with Jodhpuri pants, churidars, the Nehru Jacket and kurtis seen on the catwalks of Europe and the US. Bill Blass, the all-American designer, feels Indian embroidery influences are a must for his evening wear, while Ralph Lauren has used beading and embroidery from India and the Nehru collar extensively for his creations. Designers Oscar De La Renta and Roberto Cavalli use Indian embroidery on collars, cuffs and waistbands; while Yves St Laurent sent out a turbaned Maharani creation for one of his earlier shows. Hermes' campaign and show window feature Indian model Lakshmi Menon with an elephant this season, and the luxury brand's scarves show Indian design influences.
The latest rage in New York fashion circles is turbaned Sikh model Sonney Sabrewal who is the new face of Kenneth Cole designs, while Jean Paul Gaultier's last collection was inspired by the princess of Rajasthan. Alberta Ferrati used tiny dark patterns with mirror embroidery for apparel and accessories, while Salvatore Ferragamo has encrusted customised shoes with traditional jewellery. Menswear too has been greatly influenced by India. There are bandhgalas from Zegna's Ceremonial collection and Pal Zileri has sherwanis with guru collars.
Fashion often conveys a social message with peace and the environment popular themes. Traditional crafts such as ikat, kalamkari, kantha and block prints were used in an innovative manner, while khadi took on a contemporary image. Texturing on fabrics was done beautifully by Nachiket Barve, while the beauty of white for layered garments was a favourite of Wendell Rodricks. The dhoti was a great inspiration for trousers and skirts along with the Jodhpuri pants for both men and women. Many pieces featured touches of traditional crafts such as Kashmir embroidery.
So when you're looking through the latest trends where kurtis and pants are sold, or admiring the work of designers celebrated collections, wherever you are in the world, Indian style is making its presence felt.