Celebrating our cultural diversity

Living in a multicultural space we sometimes take for granted our festival traditions. Today being the celebration of the religious festival of Divali, we all pay respect on this new moon day in the Hindu calendar, to demonstrate our appreciation of its universal meaning – the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. In this glorious period, it is not only citizens of East Indian descent that don the resplendent fashions of our Indian heritage. Indeed, it is an occasion whereby we proclaim our multiethnic status.

Indian fashion has always fascinated me, from my days of viewing the Indian movies on Sundays, when we had just one television channel. I was quite in awe of the magnificence of the intricate needlework, the sheer luminosity, the exquisite textures and the regal layering which all bespeak an Asiatic allure. Never would I have guessed, at that time, that I would go on to do an internship with the Indian High Commission which prepared me to auction Indian wear at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Cultural Cooperation. So I became slightly adept at some of the fashion terminologies, appreciating outfits like the gagra choli ensembles and salwar kameez suits, for instance. 

Now I see how some seminal components of Indian wear have caught on as international fashion inspiration. A dupatta/orhni – the veil/scarf to cover head and screen face – worn with a choli top and a sari or a lehenga – long skirt – are the traditional Indian clothing for women and variations of this composite have influenced world trends to produce an Indo-Western fashion aesthetic. Notwithstanding, here in the region, we also have cultivated an Indo-Caribbean taste that fuses elements of colour choices, textile preferences, ethnic details and Eastern silhouettes to identify with this peculiar persuasion. However, true Indian wear still remains predominantly Subcontinental style. 

In a recent interview on CNC3, Neha Karina, who can be dubbed an Indo-Western-fusion designer speaks of “regal styling, exotic imagery and lavish ornamentation.” These qualities used suitably is how she defines tasteful Indian-inspired style. She spoke of the cool Caribbean aspect which has transposed itself on to our interpretation of Indian style. Comfort combined with flair must pertain but with a profoundly subtle oriental look. She posits that the sophistication of Indian inspired designs no longer confines its wearer to those of Indian heritage. Everybody is enraptured with this Asiatic allure.

On a recent photoshoot with Tya Jané Ramey, Miss Trinidad and Tobago World 2019,  she expressed her absolute exuberance and the overwhelming honour she feels being able to represent this multiethnic nation-state. “In a month’s time, I go off to London where my presence will be a reflection of our cosmopolitan status. Being able to celebrate our cultural diversity and our sense of all-inclusivity humbles me. Today, I have been given yet another privilege to portray our Indian heritage and this fills me with insurmountable pride which underscores our unique and distinctive identity, as a people” she said. 

I take this opportunity to salute our national multicultural status characterised by our plural personality and our eclectic sense of style on the this-here festival of lights. A monumental holiday heralding, symbolically, a realm of prosperity to come, and commemorating the lifting of spiritual darkness. Shubh Divali!

Photography: Luvo Cinematography

Make up: Karah Ramnarine-Shah (Lacara Makeup)

Fashion: House of Zari

Model: Tya Jané Ramey

Richard Young

Fashion Consultant / Creative Director

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