Shalwar kameez: how will you wear yours?

Jemima and Diana started it. Now Eastern clothes are working their way into everyone's wardrobe

Paula Yates must be laughing all the way to the ante-natal classes. In the week when she announced that her home was designed in "sheikh chic", and that her baby was to be blessed with the Polynesian moniker Hiraani, it would seem that Eastern style is simply indispensable. Witness Jemima and Imran floating out of the High Court. Compared to the Bothams and the Lambs, all wide ties and tight skirts, the two Khans, in their loose trousers and long tops looked like something which had just dropped in from Planet Vogue. In the meantime, letters pages in fashion supplements are full of queries from women asking how to wear Indian clothes and if one needed any more convincing there's Princess Di, the nation's clothes- horse, appearing on the front cover of Hello! in a shalwar kameez (loose trousers and a long top, do wake up). And looking pretty comfy in it. Move over, the A-line. Your time is up.

Maureen Doherty has known about the sublime appeal of Eastern clothing for quite a while now. Egg - her shop in West London - mixes an eclectic cull of clothes from Japan, Iraq and Korea. "The East has always interested me," says Ms Doherty, formerly general retail manager of the Jigsaw empire. "They make clothes that are comfortable, and they're not designed by people who hate women. Like Chanel. I hate Chanel. It trusses women up like chickens."

Egg's clothes; loose trousers, baggy smocks, linen dresses, are all made in India by Doherty's partner Asha Sarabhai. Sarabhai is based in Ahmedabad, North India and the clothes are delivered to Knightsbridge every month. "I don't have a season, I just have a delivery every four weeks," says Doherty. "I avoid the fashion world, and all that Imran Khan hype. I don't have expensive shows and I don't make clothes to show off in." Perfect for the down-shifted Nineties; indeed, the Egg style seems ideal for the growing body of professionals who don't check in at the office wearing a pin-stripe each morning. In fact, some of them don't check in to the office at all. "A lot of men who buy things here wouldn't have dreamt of doing so 10 years ago. But instead of going into work now they just sit at home in a pair of drawstring trousers. They have an office at home and they wear what they want. I'm looking for clothes which will be worn by ordinary, working people," she says.

Which all sounds marvellous, although the prices at Egg are not for the faint-hearted - T-shirts from pounds 40, dresses from pounds 150 through to pounds 4,000 for an entire outfit. Doherty's insistence that she is merely catering for the ordinary proletariat masses rings somewhat hollow. "Well, most of the working people who come here are actually sort of architects, that sort of thing. And film people. No, I don't have Indian people shopping here," she confesses. "No, I don't know where Indian people shop. They probably have their own designers." And one is reminded rather too pointedly of Marie Antoinette and the goings-on at the dairy when Ms Doherty explains how she designed a smock inspired by a "wonderful butcher's apron" witnessed in action at Smithfield Market. To be worn perhaps by Lady Helen Windsor, that well-known "ordinary working person"and frequent customer at Egg.

Indeed, one imagines Doherty, who sniffily despises Western fashion as "the type of things people wear to Ascot these days", recoiling in horror when anyone wearing spaghetti straps wanders into her tastefully designed "non-fashion" shop. Yet for those of us still in the odd strap (only now and then), there is a new shop in which to find the comfortable elegance of Oriental style in an enthusiastic east-west cross-over. Ritu is an Indian boutique just off Oxford Street. The shop sells the designs of Delhi designer Ritu Kumar and is run by her friend Kiki Siddiqui. Ritu's Boutique, as it's known in India, has twelve branches across the sub-continent; this, the London branch opened in May. It sells classic Indian designs with a touch of Western styling; you can go the whole hog in a sari, or stick to a sleeveless wrap-over dress with an Indian pattern.

"I was surprised how the European community have taken to it," says Siddiqui. Her clientele is half European, half Asian; as with Egg, all the clothes are designed in India and shipped over to Britain. By all accounts, they're just the thing for a hot London summer and, as Jemima Khan has proved, shalwar kameez make perfect and elegant maternity wear.

"The shalwar kameez is very popular with customers," says Siddiqui. "It's cool and elegant. Any type of figure can wear it; I believe it enhances any shape. They're easy to wear; the only compromise we have made to Europe is that they have elasticated waistbands, rather than drawstring tops."

Ritu also stocks saris, both summer and winter versions, although it has to be said it would be a brave European to sport one in the boardroom. However Kiki Siddiqui is confident that in time, even the sari could take off as office garb. She can even show the uninitiated how to drape them. "Why not? The world is shrinking. People are travelling the world constantly. And fashion lifts all sorts of things from different communities. I don't see why it should be odd. Saris are so elegant, so easy to wear and very flattering. Even Princess Diana knows how flattering they are. We had a show at Galeries Lafayette in Paris; the Parisian women really took to them. And Indian women in London are so pleased they can pick up well designed, hand-embroidered outfits.

Indeed, looking at the range of deeply coloured, beaded and printed materials, soft peplum jackets and tapered trousers hanging alongside crisply draped tops and shimmering saris, the clothes present a refreshing change to the skirt and jacket routine to which most women invariably find themselves dancing. "All your life, you've lived in a little black dress," says Kiki Siddiqui, with devastating precision. "Why not try something vibrant, embroidered, luxurious?" Mrs Khan couldn't have put it better herself.

Egg, 36 Kinnerton Street, London SWI (0171 235 9315)

Ritu, 16 North Audley Street, London WIY 1WE (0171 491 4600)

Wealth of Nations' current mail order catalogue has several shalwar kameez-style options including a knee-length Punjabi coat (Choga) pounds 95, which looks great worn with wide pyjama-style trousers (from pounds 55); and Indian linen Kurta Pajama (pounds 110 for the pair). Call 0171-371 5333 for catalogue.

Workshop the specialist shirtmakers also do a nice line in simple linen tunic tops with matching wide-legged trousers. Worn together, they look like a pared down version of the shalwar kameez found at Ritu. Workshop 178a King's Road, London SW3;

52 Bow Lane, London EC4M and 1 Cabot Place East, Canary Wharf, London E14.

Call 0171-738 2525 for mail order and catalogue.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

    £45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone