Over 3.4 million south Asians currently reside in the United States alone, as the most popular choice of metropolis being our very own big apple.
However, it’s not news that South Asians who are native to their country are poles apart from the “international one’s,” so much so that this “confused desi” phenomenon is a subculture in and of itself. With first hand experience of living in a place where the majority of the population didn’t look like me, I was deprived of the opportunity to constantly be surrounded by my culture. Like many, I latched on to the three primary elements that would link me to my roots: Food, Film, and Fashion.
When you think of Indian fashion, the visuals that come to mind are the vibrant colors, the magnificent manipulation of embroidery and the sensuality of the fabric. In honor of south Asian wedding week, World Bride Magazine spent time with “Shehnaai Couture,” to uncover how our 21st century South Asian brides of today, combat trend with tradition.
Marking their 10 year anniversary, Shirin Vinayak, Director at Shehnaai Couture, gave us insight on her journey. Starting as wedding planners and moving into fashion allowed the “inspiration to constantly change and maneuver its way through life as time went on,” as Shirin told us. Shehnaai Couture gave south Asian brides a taste of the authenticity and tradition they strived to accomplish on the most memorable day of their lives. Family being an essential part of our culture has been their rock in terms of support. Having both her children during the essential years of the business meant that there was “no maternity leave, because you become the business.”
Being from South Bombay, Shirin’s nature consisted of a strong appreciation for western ideals. However at the same time was equipped with a “culturally sound” upbringing, emphasizing “what is the Indian way to be.” With both a bachelors degree and masters in finance, which she achieved outside of India, by the time the business was established, Shirin had been away from the tornado of tradition for over 9 years. However, since “both ends of the spectrum were so connected in the mind, it made an easier amalgamation of both.” Revealing so much by revealing so little is one of the core characteristics that make up the Indian woman- an Indian woman (in India) could be any size that she is, however, still completely fine with “showing her belly, but talk to her about showing her shoulder and she feels like she’s half naked.” Outside of south Asian territory, on the other hand, women want perfect abs or at least a toned body to show your belly, but they would show their shoulders no matter what. Over time, as India modernized and began to embody Western culture, we ironically became more traditional and old school and “latched on to what we knew of India many years ago,” which is the “trend,” if you will, today.
Most south Asians do not get to go back as often as Shirin and I do and live in the culture as their parents did 20-30 years ago. The difference between women in India wearing evening gowns to their wedding, and non-natives sourcing for saris, “is nice, and as ironic as it sounds our way of re-connecting with our culture.”
Photography by- Jessica Fejos