In today’s fashion, synthetics are out but synthesis is in.

Parisienne Brigitte Singh married into Indian society and fell in love with the fabric of the Raj. She has since taken some of India’s finest material and patterns to her homeland in light,  sophisticated designs that transcend ethnic stereotypes.  The synthesis is sublime. Now Ms. Toriyama is bringing this Indo-Franco fashion to Japan.


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This stunning fusion is no surprise really; fashion designers have been borrowing ethnic patterns since Alexander slipped into his first Persian silk.  Arabesque, Orientalism, Afro and Nativism are all at home on the Paris catwalk.  The culture of origin supplies the look and the feel, the European designer puts it in a form palatable to modern, global tastes.

I have always been attracted by exotic women draped in ethnic cloth, but somehow local fashion does not translate well into foreign idioms; what is lovely in Dakhar, Mumbai,  or Nha Trang is usually simply odd in New York, Tokyo or Paris.  The richest fauna and flora have to be transitioned before being transplanted, and when they are, they can easily upstage the local garden variety.

I am no fashion freak, but I do have an eye for beauty and quality and I am fascinated by any effective intercultural crossover. This is the gist of my career as a teacher in Japan and the product of my marriage as the father of three Asian-American boys.

My usual enthusiasm for popular ethnic expression is music, which also requires a skillful handmaid to arrange regional harmonies so they ring true on the world stage.  Gershwin applied his cosmopolitan Jewish sensibilities to make the African-American idiom the exclamation of American Jazz. Jobim and Veloso in turn fused Afro-American Jazz with the Afro-Brazilian samba. Yo-yo Ma moved Tibetan chants from the anthropology class to the symphony hall. Ry Cooder produced Cuba’s balladeers. Christian Scholze and Richard Bona polish the raw rhythms of Africa.

For me the ultimate would be to watch a lovely Japanese lady adorned in a Brigitte Singh creation dancing to a Carlinhos Brown Bossa-Samba. Now that’s globalism I can believe in!

Maitre D’s in Tennodai will be showing Brigitte Singh’s  Spring collection through April 27th.