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Saturday, 29 March 2014

British Asian Fashion: Has it finally got its own identity?

Asiana Couture Catwalk (L-R Mani Kohli Khubsoorat, Ashan's and Aada by Gudu G) Image: Rafyl

I've recently entered my 5th year of working on a British Asian fashion magazine. I've lost count of how many fashion catwalk shows I've been to, the number of trend reports I've written and the thousands of images I've sifted through. 

The fabrics, designs, colours and embellishments are always extraordinary but unless you pay attention to detail, it's hard to sometimes tell them apart. There are some key designers who set the trends each season but over and over again you see the same things happening. It's like fashion in general: trends go around in circles so to someone who doesn't know much about Asian fashion their immediate reaction may be...'it all looks the same'...and truth be told I wouldn't blame them. 


If you were to look back at the last decade of British Asian fashion you'll spot similar things occurring: red Latin inspired ball gowns, red and gold churidar suits, heavy Mughal embroidery...is it because British designers are too lazy to start setting new trends, they keep going back to the old ones?

This doesn't happen in India; their designers seem to be far more progressive. Take Manish Arora...



These snaps were taken at Paris Fashion Week earlier this month and customary with his signature style they are are bright, quirky and have personality.

Similarly the calibre of designers who exhibited at Lakme Fashion Week in India also in March this year were at the top of their game for being influential. In fact if the mainstream fashion press ever do want to look at the what's happening in South Asian fashion they'll go straight to these established designers in India and won't even thinking about looking at UK talent.

Well it's time they did. 

A couple of weeks ago a new kind of fashion show took place in Birmingham bringing with it evidence that British based Asian designers are finally realising the importance of developing their own style. The Asiana Couture Catwalk held at Edgbaston Cricket Stadium was a showcase of contemporary fashion for men and woman and for the first time showed signs of originality and 'trends' emerging which could so easily impact on the wider, mainstream fashion industry.

I felt the standards were good enough to compete on an international scale. I don't mean that to sound patronising...I just honestly think the clothes have got better to the point they don't look like 'British Asian clothes for British Asian people', but have wider appeal. 
Here are some of the outfits to explain what I mean:



Bombay Stores (Bradford)

Gul's Style (Ilford)

Adaa by Gudu G (Birmingham)

Arinder Bhullar


Kiran's Creations


Ahsan's (Birmingham)

Kyles Collection (London - jewellery)

There is absolutely no reason a Western A'list celebrity shouldn't wear one of the bold, red evening dresses by Kiran's Creations, that a slender popstar star can't wear the gold lace catsuit by Gudu G or a British woman of any ethnicity wear one of the floaty, summer festival themed kaftans available from Bombay Stores. 

Similarly I've met white English men fascinated by Asian men's sherwanis - they aren't all cream and gold and made for weddings; this darker pair have a smart theme to them which could easily crossover as an 'acceptable' form of menswear in public by again, a man of any ethnicity, without him looking like he's just come back from travelling, or leads an alternative/New Age lifestyle.

So what does this actually mean and does it matter?

Well sadly I think we are still many years away from a mainstream Western fashion magazine featuring clothes by Asian designers...but if these designers continue to keep their standards high, try and push boundaries and 'design' rather than copy each other or rely on past collections then I hope one day they'll gain wider recognition and become a more valued part of the British Asian industry as a whole. 

And that's just for starters...
As for what I wore to the fashion show, I'm currently going though what I'm calling my orange 'Oompa Loompa' phase and this ensemble kind of just came together from things already in my wardrobe. I'm pictured with the best-dressed man at the show, jewellery designer Anees Malik. Whenever I see him he always looks unique, also I so rarely meet (or see) Asian men that have perfected their own original image so he deserve a special mention!

If you're interested in finding out more about what's happening in the world of British Asian fashion then you should check out Asian Fashion Blog, Author Nazma does a sterling job of keeping abreast of the industry and her blog is packed with great pictures and keep an eye on Asiana.TV. Enjoy! 


All catwalk images taken by Rafyl 

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