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  • Writer's pictureAkasha Usmani

Sari diplomacy and fashion ties between Australia and India

How fashion and clothing (including saris!) is, increasingly, a bond between Australia and India.

Jodi McKay (extreme right), former Australian Member of Parliament and current national chair, Australia India Business Council is one of the biggest Australian fans of the sari.

India is one of Australia's most significant allies in the Indo-Pacific region. The two countries work closely together at all levels and have strong interpersonal ties. Apart from this, India has made a strong presence in the fashion industry in Australia. The Australian market has great potential for Indian brands and clothes. The recent Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) between the two countries will allow barrier free trade in several areas, including textiles and garments.

In terms of the diversity of raw materials available, the free trade agreement would provide the enormous commercial potential for Australian clothing manufacturers to source from India. With around four per cent of all Australian garment imports coming from India, Australia has historically been India's largest trading partner for clothing.

India's rich cultural legacy and diversity complement Australia's multicultural attitude. Apart from a strong relationship between the two countries in cricket and yoga, fashion has also contributed to their relationship. The Influence of Indian culture is growing on International fashion. By fusing their creativity and invention, Indian fashion designers have made significant contributions to the global fashion industry with their fabrics, embroideries, and patterns.

Indian designers have a global presence and to demonstrate the talented Indian designers, fashion week is organized in Australia called The India Fashion Week Australia, it is held every year and showcases an array of Indian fashion from seasoned and up-and-coming designers. The fashion show is designed to coalesce brands, models, the wider industry, and the public for celebrating fashion and giving them a networking opportunity. The 2022 India Fashion Week in Australia was sponsored by Meilleur Events, run by Indian actor Vishwajeet Pradhan, and his wife, Sonalika Pradhan, director of the Indian Fashion Week Australia, the event was to host the multicultural fashion event. The highlight of this year’s program was Indian designer Archana Kochhar’s debut appearance, and India’s first transgender fashion designer Saisha Shinde along with local Australian, South Asian and African origin designers and also had a 'GenNext' segment which will focus on the emerging new brands. The Fashion Week has a number of events like children’s runway shows, charity events, live music and so on.

In fact, Sonalika Pradhan is a unique success story in fashion in Australia. The Indian-origin Australian fashion designer who specialises in Indian clothes is a hit among customers across Australia. The former Member of Parliament Jodi McKay is a similar wonderful example of an Australian who has embraced Indian wear, namely the sari. McKay is often seen wearing saris and champions the garment around the country.

There are many brands present in Australia which are inspired by Indian designs and prints. One of the many brands is - Daughters of India, an Australia-based clothing brand that provides affordable ethical clothing. Founded on the coast of northern New South Wales, Australia, the brand aims at creating apparel for ladies who are confident in carrying a unique style. These unique styles are extensively inspired by Indian prints and a bohemian lifestyle. Their garments take pride in beautiful Indian prints, and are currently made in small factories within local villages just outside of the historic pink city of Jaipur in Rajasthan, India. The workers working in these local factories are supported in fair trade and are provided with hand block printers, block makers, dyers, tailors, hand stitching artists and more. Since a majority of their garments involve a lot of handmade processes, it directly helps to generate a large number of employees for the people of this region. The brand provides free employment, free education and job training for both men and women. Daughters of India proves to be much more than just a clothing brand, as they not only want to preserve the tradition of Indian hand block printing (which is one of the earliest and slowest methods of textile printing) but also pursue a dream to keep empowering the local women and men by teaching them skills through employment.

There are many Indian clothing stores in Australia working to get Indian craftsmanship to Australia. One such store is Sajawat Couture which is a reputable Indian store with a focus on high-end Indian clothing in Australia. The word 'sajawat' literally means adorning or beautifying something, and the business is true to its name with a large selection of clothes in various textures and colors.

Another example is Fabricoz; as it was difficult to find authentic Indian clothing in Australia, the founder of this store reflected on the very few options for clothing. Thousands of other people were having the same issue which is how Fabricoz was created, it is an online retailer of Indian apparel in Australia, renowned for its premium desi clothing.

Many women Australian lawmakers have boldly worn sarees to multicultural events. In Australia, the sari is increasingly being seen as a fashion statement. The sari is a customary South Asian dress made of cotton or silk that is draped over the body. The wearing of a saree demonstrates respect for cultural diversity. The strong bilateral ties between Australia and India are being highlighted by Australian political leaders through this sari diplomacy.

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