KULDOVA, Tereza (2017). Luxury Indian Fashion: A Social Critique, London: Bloomsbury. ISBN: 978-1-4742-2094-1 (print on demand), softback, 213 pp, b/w illustrations, glossary, bibliography, index. Price: £21.59.
A classic Berg/Bloomsbury book that looks at the anthropological and more specifically the sociological aspects of the textile and fashion world. In this case the author, Tereza Kuldova (Oslo University, Norway), explores as well as dissects the Indian fashion industry. Part of the book is based on a series of interviews many of which took place in or around the ancient city of Lucknow and more specifically among the craftspeople producing chikan embroidery (chikan-kari), which is (traditionally) a form of white work embroidery used to decorate a wide range of garments for men and women. Other chapters in the book studies various aspects of the producers and consumers who are vital to the presentation of the Indian fashion world. These chapters provide detailed information at how the fashion, body, and being an elite Indian can be expressed by both men and women via the concept of dress. There are numerous interviews with designers, their staff, as well as the sellers. In particular the book looks at the concept of Indian fashion as it has developed since the late 20th century and the close link between aesthetic, the perceived Mughal legacy, textiles and Indian nationalism.
Recommendation: This book is not for the general reader, but for people who are specifically interested in the role of dress (fashion) in modern life, and more specifically among the Indian (elite). The study looks at clichés, misconceptions and reality of the Indian fashion industry, all with the same doggedness by author. The fact that these explorations into Indian life has produced a series of sub-sections such as ‘Hypermuscularity and neo-liberalism’ (p. 160), ‘Gangsters, wrestlers and muscular politics (p. 167), as well as ‘Fashion and the alcohol industry’ (p. 173), is an indication of the theoretical interests and methodology employed by the author.
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, November 2017