The South Asian diaspora’s growth has been phenomenal. From electing a vice-president of South Asian origin to media that center South Asian narratives to today, a global, it has blossomed. Sabyasachi, a fashion house full of magic and dreams, is on every South Asian brides vision board. You’ll only find hateful memes and hateful comments on this Indo-Western boho chic collection on Twitter and TikTok. The lack of Indianness in the collection, the laziness of the collection and the high prices are all common criticisms. These criticisms are rooted in a lack of context and the channels social media provides for us to judge and conclude the matter. The diaspora might be better able to appreciate Sabyasachi’s x H&M collection beyond its consumer value if it is given some historical context and an artistic perspective.
What Is Indo-Western Fashion?
These clothes feature a mix of Indian colors and designs against Western silhouettes that allow for the mixing and matching clothes and accessories from across continents. These clothes are easy to wear and appeal to a new generation South Asians, who bring their culture to boardrooms and brunches. This generation of South Asians is proud of its identity. It is not inherently South Asian nor strictly Western. Therefore, expecting that there will be some Indianness to their favorite fashion form is counterintuitive.
However, Indo-Western fashion is still a rare find in most of India. We are hearing from Raheen Chhipa, an Indian fashion influencer, that brands like and others are trying to fill the Indo-Western clothing niche. However, Raheen Chhipa, a fashion blogger in India, says that “they don’t have the same vibrancy fabrics or prints as Sabyasachi so beautifully.” Let’s take, for example. It’s, quite simply, boring. It’s not reflective of modern Indian trends and doesn’t have any unique silhouette to it, nor does it bolster a fun color palette traditional in South Asian clothing. The cost of the tunic is only $20, converted from Indian rupees. The tunic can be easily found at Macy’s and eventually in the closets of immigrant mothers who wear these kurtas from the department store.
On the other end of the spectrum, let’s take a peek at a high-end designer piece of Indo-Western clothing. House of Torani’s tunic, which is made from a rich fabric and intricately designed, can be difficult to wear regularly. It costs $324 (converted from Indian Rupees). Sabyasachi is able to create a happy middle ground between Global Desi and House of Torani. The colors in my collection are quite different to what I would associate with South Asian attire. With its chiffon fabric, plunging neckline and chiffon fabric, the piece is unique and exciting, which is something that is hard to find in the Indian market. Megha Rao, who designed the Tesher Jalebi Baby music videos, said that there was an empty spot between the Global Desi’s of the market and the House of Torani’s. The market should have Indo-Western options, which can include streetwear, semi formal, and formal. SabyasachixH&M fills a niche in the global Indo Western market with its affordable price, ease of use, and accessibility in shopping malls.
What does Sabyasachi’s collection mean artistically and politically?
In the words of Raheen Chhipa, this collection may seem like “we’re being recolonized,” but I think it’s more about reclamation. The collection is referred to as Sabyasachi Calcutta-x H&M. It captures the attention of audiences with the same appeal as Calcutta, which was once the capital and cultural center of British India. It is an artistic statement to reimagine Indo Western fashion so close to India’s Independence Day. Sabyasachi and H&M offer both accessibility to Indo-Western fashions, but also the luxury that can only be achieved by the British, or the Indian elite. His collection is an amalgamation of India’s mysterious authenticity of the past and modernity. While some pieces may look like what you might find in your mom’s closet, Sabyasachi has taken that nostalgia and combined it with modernity. Sabyasachi spoke in an interview about how he wore his collection to “palaces in Jaipur” and “pool parties in LA”.
It’s this same wanderlust mindset that this collection was inspired by that raises questions on its effects of bringing South Asian fashion to the world. In New Kings of the World: Dispatches from Bollywood, Dizi, and K-Pop K-pop’s impact is felt all over the world and North Korean leaders value K-pop diplomacy. Sabyasachi may be thinking about a large audience, which feels like betrayal to the diaspora. But could global South Asian fashion become a bigger umbrella of soft power from the subcontinent? This collection could be a first step towards identifying new ways to improve the culture, trade and economy of the Global South and retain Indian talent and innovation, which globalization has notoriously stolen.
Finally, let’s unpack the hate
Sabyasachi stated that he was mindful of sustainability when creating this line. He created a line that is timeless and genderless, which allows it to be worn many times over the years by many people. The Sabyasachi Art Foundation is mentioned in some detail. While I am sure that there was some social benefit, the lack of transparency in manufacturing the collection “boggles both the marketer in me and the conscious consumer in me,” Aam Creative Afshan Nasseri, a US-based South Asian influencer, told us. This is a case where I cannot help but support TikTok and Twitter.
Prices also seem to be a common gripe across Tik Tok, but in comparing this H&M collaboration with previous designer collaborations, Sabyasachi falls on the more affordable end of the spectrum. A black embellished bodycon dress with a long sleeves and edging that costs $549 was part of the 2015 collaboration with Balmain. A gold chain belt was included in the 2019 Moschino collaboration. It cost $199. The Sabyasachi-x H&M collection’s most expensive piece is $299. Are consumers accustomed to clothing from the Global South being sold at unreasonably low prices?
As for the last common criticism I heard and a fear I harbor myself: what cringe TikTok boho culture will white people create from this collection? America has always been fascinated by South Asia, regardless of whether you openly admit it. This time, however, the focus is on Indian designers, who are allowing for interpretation. It seems that he has cultural appropriation in his mind. This capsule includes a saree. It is not available for purchase in other countries.
Though my own criticism lies in the beloved jhumka amiss from the collection, I’m amazed by how the collection has broadened my definition of Indian fashion. According to Afshan Nasseri, Indian fashion’s strength is in its pleating, draping, and although this collection didn’t introduce the world to new shapes it did introduce us to a global South Asia that was a mix of influences, experiences and opportunities.