How India influenced Western aesthetics

by decwells
How India influenced Western aesthetics


In late 18th century France, the rigid, tailored gowns of the Ancien Régime were replaced by the lighter unstructured gowns of fine Indian muslin that gave rise to a new era of fashion. In the 1920s, French jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels created a range of India-inspired pieces made with precious stones and design inspiration from India. In 1996, Dior creative director Gianfranco Ferré presented his couture collection called “Indian Passion” where jacquard silks, gold embroidery, zardozi work proliferated – a hat tip to his obsession with Indian karigari.

Dries Van Noten’s luxury spring-summer 2022 collection drew on his impression of visiting Kolkata just after Holi and seeing splashes of color in unexpected places. These are just a handful of the instances of India’s impact on global style. Anthropologist and fashion scholar Phyllida Jay’s Inspired by India: How India Transformed Global Design (Roli Books) is a compendium of clothing, textiles, jewellery, material objects, photography, paintings and other visual cues that reveal the profound influence of Indian textiles, crafts and culture on the biggest influencers of global style.

Featuring over 300 images from the archives of museums, galleries and the world’s leading luxury brands and craft studios, the book explores over six centuries of cultural exchange between India and the world.

The Indian aesthetic as imagined, borrowed and, in several cases, “stolen” by the West, has a history that goes back to the early days of global exploration and colonial enterprise. It comes as little surprise that calico, chintz, bandana, muslin, seersucker, shawl, dungarees, Madras check, pajama and khaki—words inherent in the global fashion lexicon—all have their roots in India.

It is a country that has often been viewed through a filter of the exotic and its artisans and rich textile history have been pushed into the background. However, 21st-century collaborations between Indian and international designers (such as Sabyasachi-Louboutin in 2015) have helped return the focus to craftsmanship and place of origin. From luxury fashion labels to high-street brands – there is a touch of India in much of what the world wears today and this book is a confirmation of its great influence.

What to expect in the book:

A Balenciaga gold sari dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor at the premiere of the New Review Lido in Paris, 1964.

Photo: Getty Images

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