Last week, Mumbai played host to Christian Dior’s Fall 2023 collection. Not only was it Christian Dior’s first India-based show, but the country’s first-ever standalone show from a European luxury brand. It truly marked a moment in history, and the internet agreed; clips from the show could be seen on all corners of TikTok, Instagram and the like. Then with snaps of high-profile celebs like Gigi Hadid and Zendaya surfacing in saris soon after, it became undeniable: India is finally having a major fashion moment, and it’s about time.
Fashion has long been lauded for its exclusivity. Its elusive, slightly snooty, cutthroat reputation has always been accepted as part of its charm—a quirk, if you will—and while movies like The Devil Wears Prada make for addictive watching, there’s no denying its old-fashioned approach just doesn’t align with today’s society. As the popularity of social media has grown, so too has our demand for inclusivity, diversity and equal opportunities. We’re able to see more, digest more, but we also expect more. Everything feels much more tangible. Whereas models may have once been mysterious and elite, they’re now influencers—existing on and commenting on all of the same platforms as we do—and we need their influence to leave a positive mark on society. Fashion’s voices are louder than ever before, which is why it’s so important that they’re used for positive change. Similarly, our voices are louder too, and we’re finally being heard.
Thanks to this, we’re already seeing greater body and racial diversity within the industry, but we still have a long way to go, especially when it comes to cultural representation. Fashion is universal, and the industry should be as such. Fashion week collections should represent the rich cultural mix of the world they’re appealing to, rather than basing designs on a tiny, Western slice of it. Say it with me: fashion is not just for the West.
In an event in London last month, Megha Kapoor—Vogue India’s Head of Editorial Content—said something that really stuck with me:
“I realised we don’t make any content in our mother tongue. All of our content is in English. When I asked why this was, I was told that our language just doesn’t seem ‘high fashion’ or ‘elevated’ enough. There’s like this weird colonial hangover that makes us feel less-than.”
This is a classic example of how India has never been taken seriously—it’s been seen as “less-than”—but things are finally changing.
Growing up, such a huge part of my family’s identity was wrapped up in clothes and fashion. I would buzz around my mum’s ankles whenever she was getting ready; watching her add each bangle with eager, expectant eyes. I looked forward to each family occasion; each wedding; each Eid. My mum and I would lay out ribbons of heavily embroidered organza and chiffon the night before each event—we’d put the fabric next to our chosen shoes and jewellery. Fashion was important to us, and it brought us together.
In an interview with Business of Fashion, Maria Grazia Chiuri—the artistic director of women’s at Christian Dior—explains this perfectly:
“India has a huge history, a 6000-year history in textile style and embroidery. This is part of the culture.”
India’s history with fashion arguably began with the cloth industry; they traded cotton and silk long before the fashion industry became what it is today. Then the rise of the Mughal Empire saw the introduction of intricate details via embellishments and prints. You could say that India was somewhat of a pioneer.
Now, the shift within the modern fashion industry is bringing this rich history to the fore. According to Business of Fashion, “When Fendi staged a show at the Great Wall of China in 2007, it helped catalyse more than a decade of growth in the Chinese luxury market.”
Here’s hoping that Christian Dior’s pre-fall 2023 show will catapult Indian fashion and history back into the worldwide public domain, where it belongs.
This article originally appeared on Grazia International.