This week Asda launched the UK’s first mainstream Asian clothing range in many of its major stores, including Mill Street West, Dewsbury. HILARIE STELFOX takes a look at the ground-breaking collection
IT WAS only a matter of time before a supermarket cashed in on an important, previously untapped and rapidly growing market – fashionable Asian women.
And it is Asda that has taken the first step, in response, says a spokesman for the company, to “huge demand from customers for authentic cultural clothing at affordable prices.”
Its George at Asda range now boasts a small 13-piece collection of traditional suits (salwaar kameez) and tunics (khurtas) , scarves (dapata) and slim-leg trousers (churidar).
Designed in conjunction with a team in India and after consultation with a panel of Asda shoppers, it also uses materials sourced in India.
The styling conforms to standards of traditional dress.
Tops and tunics, some embellished with sequins and embroidery, have kaftan or full-length sleeves and trousers are ankle length. Necklines are mostly modestly cut.
The clothing line, aimed at both Asian and non-Asian customers has, so far, met with a positive response.
I asked Sophia Malik, specialist tutor in printed textiles at Huddersfield University, for her opinion on the collection – both as a fashion expert and a woman with an Asian background. Of Anglo-Pakistani origins, Sophia believes that the range will have a general appeal.
“Personally, I don’t wear a lot of traditional clothing, but when I saw the collection I thought that it might be something that non-Asian women would like.
“There’s a lot that you could mix and match,” she said.
“A lot of Asian women make their own clothes, especially the everyday things.
“They might go to a dressmaker for special occasion clothes. But this gives them the opportunity to buy cheaply off the peg for day to day outfits,” added Sophia.
With clothes in the range costing from £5 for a crinkle scarf and £7 for slim leg trousers to £14 for an embroidered tunic and £26 for a suit, it offers budget chic at a time when many families are feeling the pinch.
Sophia’s colleague, Steve Harrington-Simpson, a Central St Martin’s School of Art and Design fashion graduate and course leader for costume with textiles at Huddersfield University, described the collection as “refreshing”.
He also has an Anglo-Asian background and says that Asda is now offering a more inclusive shopping experience for people from Asian cultures.
“The outfits have classic cut shapes that incorporate pattern as well as plain coordinates.
“There’s great potential to style them in a number of ways,” he said.
However, Ranjit Rehill, press and marketing officer for the Lawrence Batley Theatre, is less certain about how successful the range will be.
“It does have garments that appeal to a wide demographic and different cultures, but it is a limited collection and I’m not sure how it will do,” she said.
“Specialist shops provide tailor made garments, rather than standard sizes, and they’re not that expensive.”
Ranjit, who is from an Indian Sikh family, wears traditional dress only for visiting the temple or special occasions.
“My background is very liberal but I’d imagine that some of the garments in this collection, with shorter sleeves and a deep v neck, wouldn’t be worn by certain religious groups, such as Muslims,” she added.
Asda’s parent company Wal-Mart was encouraged to launch the new range following the success of a Bollywood-inspired collection in Canada earlier this year.
In the UK, Asda has the broadest demographic group of all the supermarkets and has seen a year on year 46% sales increase of ethnic foods.
Wal-Mart’s corporate affairs director Kevin Groh says that the Canadian launch generated so much industry buzz and media interest that the company was “blown away.”
The collection launch in the UK has been timed to cash in on the two major religious festivals of Eid this weekend and Diwali in mid October.