Colourful, kitschy Indian fashion a hit abroad

By Radhika Bhirani, IANS
Thursday, December 16, 2010

NEW DELHI - Time was when the Indian fashion industry was considered immature for its bright colours and embellishments, but not any more. Bags with imprints of Lord Buddha, jewellery inspired by Indian gods and mirrored clothes are in great demand abroad, say designers.

New age kitsch queen Nida Mahmood, best known for finding inspiration in everyday things like movie posters and matchboxes, says it is imperative to show the real India to the world.

“I like to feel I am a part of the lineup of designers who popularise Indian designs with its colours. We are a colourful race, and we must take it upon us to add a little colour to world fashion, which is dominated by solid and mostly subdued hues,” Mahmood told IANS.

“India’s plus points are the rich use of colours and craft, which is what the international market wants. Personally, I feel the apparel and accessories should speak volumes about where they come from and we must not be shy in adding ethnic Indian elements,” she added.

Manish Arora, known for his out-of-the-box designs flaunted by names like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, is among the few Indian designers who painted India’s name bright on the international fashion scene without compromising on colour.

His clothes are often a combination of traditional Indian embroidery and beading on Western silhouettes and are identifiable for a splash of colour and kitsch. His high-end designs sell like hot cakes across the globe, especially in Paris and Tokyo.

Clothes aren’t the only things in demand. There’s a huge market for jewellery and accessories too.

“We get a great response for everything very Indian, especially designs based on Indian mythological characters. These motifs are known all over and we get a great response from the Middle East as well as European markets now,” said Suman Khanna, spokesperson of jewellery brand Amrapali, worn by international stars like Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna and Taylor Swift.

The spurt in demand for such Indian kitsch-based and pop art-based goods is also a result of widespread awareness, said Khanna.

“People abroad are now aware how Ganesha is a god of good luck and they love designs with Krishna, Lakshmi and even Garuda…Whether it’s in silver, gold or even gold-plated, everything works. Rudraksh beads are very in,” she said.

A lot of foreign tourists who go street shopping in India also take a liking to t-shirts with symbols of Om and lord Ganesha.

Bag couturier Pinky Saraf, who designs under the label PVS Bags and Accessories, launched a limited edition of Buddha bags and received an overwhelming response.

“I designed four bags with Buddha designs. These are made out of digital prints and embellished with Swarovski crystals. These bags have got a huge response from markets like Egypt and Japan. I made them because of my belief in lord Buddha, but they have turned out to have a lot of international appeal,” Saraf told IANS.

Similarly, Radhika Gupta of 5 Elements, an exporter of contemporary yet traditional fashion accessories, got a promising response from international markets for her bags in colours like red and orange with traditional Kutchi and mirror work.

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at

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