Phyllida Jay’s ‘Inspired by India’ maps India’s footprint on design and fashion world: The Tribune India

Jasvinder Kaur

INDIA has been a land of mystique and exoticism, attracting many travelers and writers for its way of life, religions, textiles, culture, history, arts and crafts. From east to west, it has been a major influence on the design world for several centuries. Phyllida Jay’s new book details this aspect.

In ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (1961), Audrey Hepburn wears a sari in the party scene. Hubert de Givenchy designed the film’s costume. Getty Images

The ease with which she moves from history to textiles, art, fashion and jewelry speaks to her in-depth knowledge of the subject. Nothing escapes her notice as she covers different aspects of Indian influences across the fields. Priya Kapoor’s contribution is no less as she successfully developed the concept, bringing out general influences in this publication, with appropriate images complementing the text. Illustrations drawn from museum paintings, archival photographs, collections from fashion houses and jewelry houses add depth and meaning to the publication.

The first chapter illustrates the popularity of Indian textiles and their impact on the European printing industry, particularly in England and France. Jay gives the example of the classic Toile de Jouy fabric in France which was inspired by Indian chintzes (called Indiennes in France in the 17th and 18th centuries). It shows how the impact of Indian products on European society and culture was felt in the 18th and 19th centuries and how India became important to English Romanticism. She writes: “Romantics believed that mankind evolved from the warm Indian coasts and that the first human awareness of the divine and spiritual realm occurred in India.”

The images of India produced by romantic artists such as Tilly Kettle and William Hodges introduced Britain to a “fantastic and enchanted India”. Authors like Jane Austen (1775-1817) and Charles Dickens (1812-1870) made many references to its exoticism and luxury. Throughout the Victorian era, the idea of ​​India continued to be mediated through its arts and crafts.

Speaking of fashion, Jay says that three Indian clothing items have had a lasting influence on Western fashion: the “banyan”, the Kashmiri shawl and the sari. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the “banyan tree” became a male dress that was neither bedding nor accepted street clothing.

The credit for establishing direct links between the weavers of Kashmir and the makers of Parisian shawls goes to the French general Jean François Allard (1785-1839), who joined the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1822. Later the Cashmere shawl became a paisley in Britain, influencing various forms of design. . The saree, whose flowing fabric has fascinated the West, has inspired many to create designs that have hit the ramp.

The book is replete with countless examples of Indian elements used in Western dresses – like peacock feathers embroidered on Lady Curzon’s dress; dresses decorated with scarab wings became a high status symbol in Europe in the late 18th century.

Taking examples from designers past and present, such as Charles F Worth, Paul Poiret, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, etc., she explains how they have all created collections inspired by Indian designs. The turban worn by Elizabeth Taylor remained a style of high society evening wear throughout the 20th century.

In the chapter on jewelry, she tells many interesting stories. In her travelogue “Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque”, Fanny Parkes, who lived in India from 1822 to 1846, illustrated a “tiger claw” set in gold carried by her servant. In Victorian times, this pattern was copied into earrings. Indian design has continued to dominate the jewelry world from time to time.

During the interwar period, it was fashionable and appeared in many magazines.

Reading this wonderful publication will certainly be a valuable addition as it covers all the areas of influence that India has had on world design. Although it would have been better printed in larger type, this cheerfully designed book is a treasure trove of information. It is a fascinating story about India’s impact on the world of design and fashion across many centuries and continents.