The collaboration saw young designers from Glasgow Kelvin College unite with their counterparts at the Government Polytechnic for Women in Gunter. Together they then created an exquisite selection of garments. This is yet another example of the close ties that Scotland and India share across a wide range of areas. This project in particular is also an inspirational illustration of a mutually beneficial partnership between young learners in two vastly different countries.

Mumbai was the setting for this fantastic fashion fiesta, which was titled ‘Fashioning the Future – Sharing Skills, Culture and Sustainability’. During the last two years, the students from Scotland and India have shared their own unique knowledge, skills and experience with each other. This fashion show then marked the climax of what has been a hugely successful two-year programme between the two countries. The audience for this show was made up of a host of VIPs from both countries, but the stars of the show were undoubtedly the beautiful garments created for the event.

The main focus for the show was on the bonds which unite Scotland and India in such close friendship. This unique connection was then considered in relation to the development of the iconic paisley pattern. The paisley pattern actually takes its modern name from the Scottish west coast town of Paisley. However, it did not actually originate in Scotland, but is another great example of Scottish-Indian fusion.

Paisley pattern

The town of Paisley and the hypnotic teardrop-swirl of the paisley pattern only became associated after a long journey over many years, across oceans and continents. The pattern was first found on shawls that were transported from Kashmir to Europe by the famed East India Company during the 18th century. These shawls quickly became the must-have fashion item for large portions of society. However, costs of transporting them from so far away meant that they were incredibly expensive and only the very wealthy could afford them.

At this point, up stepped a whole host of European weavers who quickly noticed the popularity of the items. They set about reinterpreting the pattern for mainstream European tastes and began producing, and selling, at a fraction of the cost. By the beginning of the 19th century, a group of weavers in Paisley quickly became the foremost producers of the design. This was because unique additions to their looms – the devices used for weaving – allowed them to work in five different colours when most other weavers could only incorporate two.

Thanks to this expertise, the design eventually became known as the paisley pattern, in honour of the weavers’ talents. Amazingly, by 1860, the Paisley weavers were known to produce shawls with up to 15 different colours. This further cemented their place as the West’s leading producers of the pattern. Over time this beautiful pattern has become a global sensation and is a worthy symbol of the strong bond that has been woven between Scotland and India for many hundreds of years.

Fashioning new opportunities

As well as the fashion itself, the catwalk was graced by the beneficiaries of some wonderful social inclusion projects. Glasgow Kelvin College developed links with two different organisations who are doing amazing work helping women in India get back on their feet. Make Love Not Scars, supports the rehabilitation of acid attack survivors and ProjectTres is working to create opportunities for victims of domestic abuse.

In an amazing display of solidarity, women from each of these projects joined the models on stage to strut their stuff alongside them, showcasing the designs. This is an excellent example of the amazing work that can be done on an international level to raise awareness for worthy causes. For the students of Glasgow Kelvin College in particular, this process helps not only with their academic career, but also allows them to develop their own personal skillsets and expand their cultural experiences.