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‘What can brown do for you?’ Indo chic and the fashionability of South Asian-inspired styles

by Anita Mannur & Pia K. Sahni

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Since the late 1990s, fashions, yoga and other trends that feel uncannily ‘Indian’ have become ubiquitous in popular media. Through a multi-sited analysis of advertisements and fashion spreads, we examine how Indiannness becomes a fashionable mode of representing exoticized cool and commodifiable difference at the same time that South Asian bodies are increasingly rendered suspect by the mechanisms of xenophobic nationalism, specifically targeted against South Asians. We examine fashion spreads in popular fashion magazines like Glamour, advertising campaigns for OPI and Cover Girl cosmetics against cultural production including Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, thus suggesting the legacy of Indo Chic has been reworked by South Asian diasporic cultural producers to present an alternative vision of capital, kinship and diasporized identity.

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