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New book showcases South Asian influence on British fashion

Posted on 01/11/2010

Cover Image; Empire Line; Photographer Gavin Fernandes

A collaboration between Geographers at Royal Holloway, University of London and the V&A Museum has resulted in the launch of a new book ‘British Asian Style: Fashion and Textiles, Past and Present,’ which traces the long standing influence of South Asian textiles on British cultures of fashion, dress and design.
The book is one of the public outputs of ‘Fashioning Diaspora Space’, a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of its Diasporas, Migration and Identities research programme. That project, led by Professor Philip Crang from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, brought together academics at Royal Holloway with researchers and curators at the V&A. Co-edited by Professor Crang, British Asian Style also includes illustrated essays by Dr Shivani Derrington, Professor Felix Driver and Helen Scalway from the Department of Geography.
This book is illustrated with an array of vivid images from the V&A's exceptional collections, alongside contemporary photographs from street fashion and the catwalk. South Asian textiles have shaped British fashion and dress for centuries, from the fashionable chintzes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, through the silk and paisley Boteh patterns of the nineteenth century, to the orientalism of 1960s Bohemian fashion and the street styles of British Asian youth and designers today. British Asian Style looks at the on-going importance of South Asian textiles to British culture and fashion, as styles move into the mainstream.
The Department of Geography has a track record of collaborations with the UK's and London's major cultural institutions, and it approached the V&A about this project in order to combine an existing research interest in forms of material cultural exchange with the V&A’s impressive South Asian textile collections, expertise on textile and fashion history, and ability to engage wider publics.
Professor Crang, says:"The book shows how collaboration with an institution like the V&A takes scholarly research beyond the academy. With its visual quality, it manages to combine scholarly insight with a feel for the materials and styles to which it is responding.  It also offers a very distinctive treatment of its title. For example, it's unusual to have contemporary British Asian fashion treated alongside histories of textile trade and collection; but that combination helps to give historical depth to present day interests in British Asian styles.”
He adds: “British Asian Style shows how the South Asian presence in British culture has been apparent for centuries rather than being just a recent phenomenon, and absolutely fits an institution like the V&A, where historical collections of textiles sit alongside curatorial interests in contemporary fashion and in engaging British-Asian communities with the museum's activities.”

British Asian Style is published by V&A Publishing in October 2010 and co-edited by Christopher Breward, Philip Crang and Rosemary Crill.


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