By  on March 23, 2005

British fashion designer Matthew Williamson has traveled to India 36 times in the last 10 years and is eager to return.

His fascination with the country is shared by Oscar de la Renta, Monique Lhuillier, Etro, Roberto Cavalli, Gucci and Tracy Reese, among others, who have embraced colorful and embellished Indian style. This is expressed in the gypsy and bohemian looks; beaded, mirrored and metallic trims; embroidery; spicy colors, and tie-dye and ikat prints found in numerous collections.

Indian-inspired fashions are proving to be salable at retail and a reason to buy for many women bored with basics. Retailers from Target to Henri Bendel have opened in-store shops devoted to India and its kaleidoscope of offerings.

“India is a creative assault on the senses: The colors, the people, the land, the culture and the unique crafts and arts, from beading to Bollywood, are all incredibly alluring to me,” said Williamson, who produces part of his collections at Indian factories. “I fell in love with India when I was 18. The incredible range of great things found in India lend themselves to much positive interpretation and are having a big influence on the worlds of fashion and the arts right now. And, in many ways, I think it’s only the beginning.”

Williamson’s sophisticated collections are often exotically embellished and opulently colored as homages to India, renowned for its textiles and handicrafts, burgeoning fashion and home furnishings, as well as the megawatt film industry Bollywood.

In January, Target Corp. rolled out a new merchandising concept to all its stores for six weeks called Global Bazaar, with decorative accessories and furniture from India and Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe. The Indian presentation featured items evoking India’s British Colonial past and more exotically inspired crafts and handiwork made by local artisans.

Jewelry designer John Hardy is based in Bali, but finds inspiration from India. He shot his upcoming fall advertising campaign in the desert region of Rajastan, an area known for its historic palaces, forts and colorful mirrored clothing.

“Interest in the exotic, colorful designs of India has traveled from Mumbai to Main Street, U.S.A.,’’ said Cindy Morris, chief operating officer at the Dallas Market Center, parent of FashionCenterDallas and the new India Pavilion, a wholesale boutique mart. “The popularity of Indian and Indian-influenced style is pervasive, from fashion to home and garden. We see retailers from small towns and large metropolitan areas equally interested in these unique products.”

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