Exploring Fashion Inspired by India and the Far East

Sunday, 12 August 2018  |  Kate

Think paisley and you think Scotland. But no... the little Scottish town of Paisley is simply the place where early India-inspired designs were manufactured into fine woollen shawls, scarves and  upholstery fabrics, back in the early 1800s.

Paisley is one of the earliest examples of an Indian pattern taken west, this time thanks to the cashmere trade which brought beautiful, soft fabrics direct from the ancient, exotic Vale of Kashmir, through India and into Europe. By the 1970s paisley crimpelene dresses, blouses and skirts were hot stuff, and men were wearing bold, colourful fitted shirts in paisley patterns. The Beatles famously adopted the Nehru-style collarless jacket. They also wore paisley. We all wore paisley. But very few of us realised its exotic origins.  

The unmistakeable teardrop-shaped design is called a Buti in India, and despite being  a very ancient design it's still used in fashion and interior décor today.

International travel inspired fashion designers

By the time the 1900s rolled in, international travel had developed far enough for fashion designers to actually go and visit inspirational places. South Asia became the next big thing to inspire western fashions. Take the 1961 Audrey Hepburn movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which she was forced to create a saree-inspired dress from a bed sheet, mimicking a strong 1940s trend.

Contemporary fashion houses continue the trend

More recently, contemporary fashion houses have taken on Indian and Far East styles and colours with relish. Hermès, Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, they've all created entire collections inspired by the East. Gaultier’s Autumn 2007 couture collection, for example, was a feast of satin tunics, jewelled turbans and sherwani-based coats. The maharaja look was back with a vengeance.

In 2008 Hermès created an awesome ready-to-wear collection for women based on Indian menswear, adapting classic male styles like the Nehru jacket, churidar trousers and bundhgala jodhpuri suits as well as sarees and turban-like hats.  Chanel carried on in autumn 2012 with their infamous Bombay-Paris Collection, a tribute to India and as exotic and opulent as anything you'd find in India itself.

Alexander McQueen, Ellie Saab, Isabel Marant, Naeem Khan, Louis Vuitton and Vera Wang have all tapped into the look at one point or another in recent years. And Indian fashion designers are also taking their heritage forwards, including the amazing Delhi-based designer Sidharth Sinha, whose London Fashion Week show in 2017 dazzled the fashion world.

Eastern styles are hot again for 2018

In 2017 we saw the high street rich in exotic floral prints and kimonos. Dame Helen Mirren was spotted wearing eastern styles, as was Celine Dion. And at New York Fashion Week, having harnessed China for inspiration in 2017, Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman carried on the Eastern style with an oriental fairytale of a collection inspired by Japan, a fantasy of 3d flowers, cherry blossom and pearls, ruffles, tassels and feathers.

Boho fashion, unusual fashion, original fashion - It's still popular! 

The boho style regularly refers to far eastern colours, patterns and designs for ideas. Indian and Nepalese clothing has long been adopted by the festival scene, by hippies themselves as well as everyone else who loves a bit of colour in their life. These days it signifies rebellion, unusual tastes, original thinking, worn by people who don't follow the same old star everyone else follows, they follow their own.

We're delighted to play a part in continuing a clothing style that has thrilled, delighted and inspired millions of fashion-lovers for centuries. Rebels, walk this way – we sell highly unusual clothing, original clothing that has India and the Far East at its beautiful core.


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