How India and Middle East continue to influence each other’s fashion  

New Delhi: Interaction with the Middle East has influenced many aspects of Indian culture, including fashion, and modern designers are drawing inspiration from the ties of tailoring established centuries ago.

A staple of the Indian subcontinent’s men’s and women’s fashion is the shalwar, loose, pleated trousers, and the tunic known as the kameez.

Considered by many to be a traditional, everyday dress, the costume traces its origins to the Middle Eastern influence brought to India by the Mughal Empire, which ruled the region from the 16th to the 19th century.

An Islamic dynasty with ancestral territories in Central Asia, the Mughal Empire carried cultural elements borrowed from the Arabs, Persians, and Ottomans, which were later accepted, adapted, and further developed by the Indians.

The style of shalwar, most commonly worn in India, features narrow ankle or ankle cuffs and is a traditional pair of women’s trousers known as sirwal in Arabic, worn in many parts of the Gulf countries. Very similar to the style of

The kameez also resembles the dishdasha, a long-sleeved, ankle-length robe worn by both men and women in the Arabian Peninsula.

There is also the Indian scarf, or dupatta, which completes the set of trousers and tunic and which in some parts of the country is also used as a veil to cover the face by women.

New Delhi-based fashion designer Devanjana Paul said, “Some of the basic everyday dresses, such as shalwars, kameez and dupattas, originate from the Mughal Empire.

“And the Mughal Empire has cultural bases in the Middle East, Turkey and the Arab world.”

However, before the Mughal Empire, the Indian subcontinent had already established contact with the Middle East through trade along the Silk Road. Along the Silk Road, besides the main commodity, spices, other commodities such as cloth were also being moved.

One of the preferred textiles in India is muslin. This fabric is so light that poets from the Indian subcontinent describe it as “woven air”.

Although the production of delicate fabrics has centered on the subcontinent for centuries, the origin of the fabric was not the subcontinent. As its name suggests, it comes from the Iraqi city of Mosul, where it was first manufactured in the Middle Ages.

Paul, who worked for an Indian brand in the United Arab Emirates, told Arab News that floral and geometric decorative motifs, especially popular in northern India, also originate from the Middle East.

Centuries later, some of them returned to their native land in new forms. One such form is the embroidery that is commonly seen these days on caftans, loose his shirts that are the basis of Arabic fashion.

“The products I designed had a lot of decoration on the surface, and these garments went to the Middle East,” Paul said.

“This is the impact Indian fashion has had on the Middle East.”

But the influence of modern India is also evident on another level. Many famous Arab designers, including Ellie Saab and Zuhair Murad, hire Bollywood stars to promote their work.

Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan are often seen wearing their designs.

“Many brands in the Middle East have adopted Bollywood celebrities as the faces of their brands,” says Paul.

“It’s also an exchange.”

The interaction is also reflected in the fact that countless fashion shows in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf region, regularly feature Indian designers and attract large audiences.

“Most Indian designers have stores in Dubai to serve the local market,” said Swati Hubroi, a designer from Jaipur.

She believes that without mutual influence between India and the Middle East, their fashion scene would be incomplete.

“Long tunics worn in the Middle East are finding space in the Indian fashion industry. Indian embroidery is finding space in the Middle East,” she said. “We have a lot in common.”

For Swarna Gupta, who runs boutique Palidan in Jaipur and sells designs in Dubai, Middle Eastern and Indian styles are compatible, so the fashion exchange is a breeze.

“Inspiration comes easily from the Middle East,” she said.

“India and the Middle East are generally conservative societies, and women want to look feminine while still expressing their style appropriately.”

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