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06/11/2017

Fast fashion was inspired by Europe’s inability to mimic Indian garb

Fast fashion was inspired by Europe’s inability to mimic Indian garb

For many centuries, Asia was both the center of the world’s textile production and the source of its fashion trends. India, in particular, was responsible for the largest share of textile production and for much of the finest kinds of cloth. Indian manufacturers had sophisticated methods for weaving cotton into light, breathable textiles, and vibrant, long-lasting dyes that gave these fabrics dazzling colors. From the Middle Ages to the early 19th century, Indian textiles were one of the most popular global commodities. Indian producers developed special lines for export to Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe, adapting to local demand.

Today, the centers of the global fashion industry lie in Europe and North America, with cities like New York, London, and Milan setting trends for the rest of the world. It’s still in Asia, however, that the textiles designed in these fashion hubs are actually made, with China and India leading global production. This unequal separation of design and manufacture is rather new in history. The story of how this came to be reveals the extent to which Asia’s textiles and fashion sense inspired the modern fashion industry. It also shows how the West’s appropriation of those aesthetics paved the way for the troubling fast-fashion environment we live in today.

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