Many contemporary fashion designers incorporate a myriad of cultural influences into their designs. This 18th century robe, on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, reveals that the fusion of different cultural elements in fashion is not a just a modern phenomenon.
This banyan would have been worn as lounge wear by a stylish 18th century European man, yet the cut is not European in origin. The shape is derived from the loose cut of the Japanese kimono, a style which had been introduced to Europe by the Dutch East India Company in the 1650’s. The European taste for the exotic meant that the wearer of this robe was not content to simply have a Japanese cut; the fabric itself came from a very different part of the world, India.
The eclectic nature of this garment illustrates the enourmous effect international contact and trade had on the material culture of Europe at this time. It was this insatiable desire for Asian commodities that went on to shape the history of our modern age.
Photograph my own.