1st Edition

Dangerous Designs Asian Women Fashion the Diaspora Economies

By Parminder Bhachu Copyright 2004
    208 Pages
    by Routledge

    208 Pages
    by Routledge

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    In late-1990s Britain, the salwaar-kameez or 'Punjabi suit' emerged as a high-fashion garment. Popular both on the catwalk and on the street, it made front-page news when worn by Diana, Princess of Wales and by Cherie Booth, the wife of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
    In her ethnography of the local and global design economies established by Asian women fashion entrepreneurs, Parminder Bhachu focuses on the transformation of the salwaar-kameez from negatively coded 'ethnic clothing' to a global garment fashionable both on the margins and in the mainstream. Exploring the design and sewing businesses, shops and street fashions in which this revolution has taken place, she shows how the salwaar-kameez is today at the heart of new economic micro-markets which themselves represent complex, powerfully coded means of cultural dialogue and racial politics. The innovative designs of second-generation British Asian women are drawn from characteristically improvisational migrant cultural codes. Through their hybrid designs and creation of new aesthetics, these women cross cultural boundaries, battling with racism and redefining both Asian and British identities. At the same time, their border-crossing commercial entrepreneurship produces new diaspora economies which give them control over many economic, aesthetic, cultural and technological resources. In this way, the processes of global capitalism are gendered, racialized and localized through the interventions of diasporic women from the margins.

    Introduction PART I Travels of the suit 1 Cultural narratives of the suit 2 Ethnicized consumption PART II Design narratives 3 Pioneering fashion entrepreneur: Geeta Sarin 4 Second-generation design globalizer: Bubby Mahil 5 Selling the nation: revivalist Indian designer Ritu Kumar 6 Selling art clothes in classed markets Conclusion: national elites versus diaspora design entrepreneurs PART III Suit marketers 7 Daminis: a commercial community mama’s shops 8 Networking marketers of ready-made suits PART IV Sewing cultures: sketching and designing 9 Diasporic sina-prona: sewing and patterning cultures 10 Designing diasporas through sketches. Conclusion: disruptive markets from the margins


    Parminder Bhachu is Professor of Sociology at Clark University, Massachusetts, USA. She was formerly Henry R. Luce Professor of Cultural Identities and Global Processes, and Director of the Women’s Studies program. She is author of Twice Migrants (1985), and is co-editor of Immigration and Entrepreneurship (1993) and Enterprising Women (1988).

    'Parminder Bhachu is the most authentic and imaginative intellectual of the diaspora that I have come across. Parminder is on the cutting edge - a sophisticated analyzer of multilayered identities and cultural locations . . . and wears great salwar-kameezes too.' - Gurinder Chadha, Director of Bend it Like Beckham, Bhaji on the Beach and What's Cooking

    'Simply put, this is must read for any Asian Woman reader ... Buy this book!'

    ' ...shows how the hardware of transnational networks enables competing discourses of fashion to project conflicting visions of modernity onto a global scale.' - Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies