Impact of Cultural Heritage on Westernised Fashion


Identity is in constant evolution, a primary example of that being the presentation of ourselves through fashion. As corny as it sounds, fashion is a form of self-expression, a method in which to exteriorise our personality and history. For me, even something as simple as wearing my Dad’s traditional Peshawri shawl acts as a connection to my history and heritage. This principle applies for many other people which has ultimately resulted in large fashion houses picking up on cultural clothing in an attempt to capitalise on it (granted, it has worked).

With our current social and political climate which is riddled with conversation around diversity, it is important to bring fashion into the discussion given its importance on our society.

From the Mandarin collar to the idolised kimono, Asia has largely impacted mainstream fashion and has been reported as one of the most important regions for the global fashion business. The McKinsey Fashion Scope has estimated the region to account for 40% of global apparel and footwear sales this year. As well as this, many Asian designers such as Asai (a second-generation Londoner with Chinese- Vietnamese ethnic origins) are dominating the mainstream fashion field by subtly implementing traditional garments into their brands to create collections that celebrate their heritage as well as pandering towards popularised western fashion.

Furthermore, Ashish who is a Delhi born designer recently showcased his designs at London Fashion Week with an Indian market setting as his catwalk. His collection was hand crafted in India using techniques that are typically utilised when creating traditional Indian bridal wear such as intricate beading and woven metallics. These designers have ingeniously enhanced our understanding of other cultures whilst also creating garments that we can easily engage with.

In addition to this, some of fashion’s biggest phenomena have originated from Black history and culture. The very source of ‘street style’ came from the Black community where trainers were seen as a way of establishing your status. As well as this, the presence of hip-hop has been colossal in the advancement of mainstream fashion. Before hip-hop, clothing and design was ‘ruled by the untouchable elite, where designers and high- end brands were seen as larger than life’. The producer Russell Simmons created ‘Phat Farm clothing’ which can only be described as revolutionary as he enabled the course of fashion to change. Brands such as Nike and Adidas owe a lot of their success to the engagement of hip-hop because as the movement evolved, the culture surrounding trainers followed. When hip-hop transitioned into the 90s, Afrocentric colours and prints came into fruition and brands that labelled themselves as ‘urban’ were born leading to an important progression in the fashion and society as there was a new wave of expression and perhaps rejection of westernised ideals of beauty.

All these examples show that the crucial impact of cultural heritage on the western world which is why is it paramount that as a society, we address our privilege and commit to developing a level of understanding for the cultures that these influences stem from. It is morally irresponsible of us to generate a profit from objects and traditions that come from marginalised societies without giving them the appropriate respect and recognition that is required.

In short, fashion has been enriched by the presence of different cultures so next time you’re looking to buy something –  why not find out where the designer has pulled inspiration from because it may lead to learning something new.

Have a lovely heritage week x