Where to find luxury Indian bridal wear and accessories in London
Aashni Anshul Doshi, founder of Notting Hill-based Aashni + Co specialises in Indian and South Asian couture, a market she decided to tap into after struggling to find an appropriate engagement outfit for herself.
“Indian weddings can go on for a week, so you need at least six outfits. I had to live in India for six months so that I wouldn’t have to travel back and forth for all of the fittings,” she tells me. “That’s how the idea for the store came about; there was a clear gap and no one else was around to fill it.”
Now her boutique stocks a medley of dazzling designs that range from the more traditional affair (fashion label Sabyasachi is the best for conventional bridalwear) to contemporary designs (designer Anamika Khanna merges western silhouettes with Indian embroidery). The mix highlights the changing nature of Indian weddings, particularly for those who live in the West.
“People are slowly getting into different colours, so different shades of red, pinks, corals, oranges and greens. Nowadays, parents are more open to accepting different styles,” Doshi says. “But on the other hand, we’re seeing a lot of young brides who actually want to stick with the tradition because they quite like it and want to embrace it.”
Jewellery also features heavily in Indian bridal design, with tradition dictating that there are nine pivotal ornaments a bride should wear. A wedding ring is, of course, essential; earrings are worn to ward off evil spirits that might enter the body; a musical payal, or anklet, announces the arrival of a new bride in her husband’s house; and a bajuband, or armlet, and bangles represent luck and safety, and vary in colour depending on the region the bride is from. A kamarbandh is a striking belt that provides added sparkle to the dress; and haar neckpieces are heavy and often gold, while a mangalsutra is put on by the groom and will be worn for as long as the bride or her husband is alive. On the toes, a bride will wear rings, or bichyas, as they are known in Hindi, and in the hair a maang tikka is worn, a hair accessory with a pendant that falls over the forehead, said to signify the union of the bride and groom on a spiritual, physical and emotional level. Finally, the nath, or nose ring, is said to have acupunctural values: legend has it that women who have their noses pierced experience less menstrual pain and have an easier childbirth, while today the nath symbolises a woman’s virginity, and is removed on her wedding night.
“Indian weddings can go on for a week, so you need at least six outfits"
UK-based Red Dot Jewels was founded by Shalini Patel and specialises in Indian-inspired silver and semi-precious jewellery, offering brides a more contemporary take on their culture’s traditional trinkets. Brands such as Azuni London (that shot to fame when the Duchess of Cambridge wore a pair of its semi-precious drop earrings) and Ritika Sachdeva bring a touch of Asian couture to the West with their intricate designs.
Wanting to recognise your heritage on one of the most important days of your life is understandable, and one London-based designer is trying her hardest to keep her culture’s bridalwear alive. Shukri Hashi Bridal offers Somali-British hybrid dresses, playing on western shapes but with a nod to the traditional Somali print. Usually made from cotton and worn as a wrap, the design is instead printed onto tulle, chiffon and satin and cut into voluminous dresses.
“When I would go to weddings, I would think about the traditional Somali print and how it was a shame that the showstopper has become a white dress,” she explains. “I’ve never been to Somalia in my life and to me it’s always been an education, learning about where I come from and where my parents grew up; it’s important no matter where you live to know your heritage. I want every Somali bride to have a touch of her culture on her wedding day.”
From the outfits worn to the rituals upheld, newlyweds across the globe embrace their culture’s age-old traditions to mark the start of their lives together as a married couple. Whatever your background, choosing to spend the rest of your life with another person is no mean feat, so it’s little wonder that the ceremonies celebrating the decision are ones of great significance, a fact that is undifferentiated across the globe. From the six-day celebrations in India to the 24-hour bashes elsewhere in the world, jubilations for the happy couple are ones of extravagance in ways that are fascinating, no matter what culture you belong to – just know that, should you ever be invited to a wedding in Sichuan, a tissue or two will be sure to come in handy.