Study Of Immigration In In The 1900s And Of The Impact Of Cultures On Fashion

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This essay will be exploring immigration in London in the 1900s and the impact cultures have had into fashion. Fashion trends have changed drastically over the decades and often make up an identity; these have been influenced by immigrants coming in from all over the world. I will be using London: The Modern Babylon (2012), by Julien Temple, as my base research. I will also be covering the topic of the South Asians who moved out from Africa to Britain in the 1970s and brands and companies popular in Britain that have been born as a result of this.

As suggested in the film London: The Modern Babylon (2012), London is the ‘capital of the world’. Britain has been housing immigrants from all around the globe – the Southern Europeans in the middle of the century as well as the Windrush generation, and a little later the influx of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in the late 20th century. The Asians were sometimes known as ‘twice-migrants’ since they had migrated to different countries of Africa earlier (Striking Women, 2013). After independence in Africa, different countries made different rules and regulations for migrants in the country and whether they could stay or leave. Many Asians therefore came through the Britain. In Uganda, once Idi Amin came into power, he expelled many Indians and Pakistanis from the country and most of those came to Britain to try to settle but also bringing with them skills and experience to help build Britain’s economy (The Broadcasting Corporation, 2012). Many of the Asians were artisans rather than dukawallahs – traders (Jamal, 2016). Dukawallahs were immigrant Indians who set up their own shops in colonial towns to try and pave their way to work in colonies (Gujarati Yatra, 2018).

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Many Indians who arrived in Britain from Africa faced a few hardships when settling since the financial state in certain areas was not secure, it was difficult to get jobs or start businesses. People had to settle for jobs they did not necessarily want but were given because they were not locals (Kavi, 2017, 0:30). Other people were conditioned to fear the move and were told ‘We must not bring these people in this country. They do not belong here and there will be race riots and rivers of blood’ (Kapasi, 2017, 0:15). According to Keshavjee (2017, 1:12), ‘People had to go wherever destiny took them. I think there was a Gujarati proverb that said, ‘It’s better to go to Africa and die when death calls you than to remain in Gujarat and die an unwarranted death.’ This shows how many Indians thought they would have a better life away from India due to the famines after Raj, therefore moving to Africa and later moving to Britain rather than going back to India. When my father came to England with his parents, they found it difficult to settle in and find jobs since many places and people ‘did not like Asians or did not allow children’ (Patel, 2019).

However, these immigrants have left a long-lasting impression and legacy on London, – from corner shops and cultural foods to ‘politicians, doctors, professionals all contribute to the growth of the country’ (Patel, 2019). Indians and other immigrants have also heavily influenced fashion as there are many brands that have been born out of immigrants in the U.K, many highly noted names and companies that have helped to develop the creative industry. For example, Boohoo was founded by the son of an immigrant from Kenya: Mahmud Kamani, and his son, Umar Kamani, co-founded Pretty Little Thing.

Another wave of immigrants that came through to London in the 20th century was the Windrush generation, named after the ship they were brought over in, named Empire Windrush. The first of which came in 1948, in order to help rebuild Economy after the decline as a result of the Second World War. Some came as an answer to adverts for jobs and businesses, others came to just see the country (The Broadcasting Corporation, 2018).

The people of the Windrush Generation also found it hard to settle into Britain. Patel (2019) believed that ‘the hardships we [Indians] encountered were probably not as bad as the African-Caribbean people who came over from the West Indies’. Gary Wilmot (2018, 1:10), son of Harold Wilmot stated how his father and others in that generation also faced hardships with racism and discrimination saying ‘even thought they [the Windrush Generation] were asked to come, local people didn’t want them there. There were signs in windows saying “No blacks, don’t come here, we don’t want you here.” And so they had to put up with a lot of discrimination’. As King (2018) said ‘Once we arrived in England and we knew that everything was all right it wasn’t plain sailing’. This suggests that despite being 3 decades apart, both waves of immigrants did not receive the warmest welcome and found it difficult to settle whether that was from finding homes and shelter or employment to help their families to survive. Immigrants now days may find it easier to find shelter and jobs as a path has been paved by the older generations of immigrants.

The Windrush Generation also left a legacy in Britain, as many represent their race through their achievements, for example, Sam King, a Jamaican- Campaigner became the first Black Mayor of Southwark, a Borough in South London (The Broadcasting Corporation, 2018). He later co-established the Windrush Foundation in order to help keep the memories and endeavours of the Windrush Generation alive. (Windrush Foundation, 2019).

Immigration in Britain in the latter half of the 20th century has helped London to evolve and London shows the celebration of immigrants by the multitude of colours, cultures, and communities seen through Britain compared to a century ago. Each wave of immigrants have left their own individual legacies, helping to build London to be what it is today and continually changing the perceptions locals of London might have of other parts of the world, without immigration and the accumulation of races and cultures, London would not have evolved in the same positive way it has. As proposed in the film London: The Modern Babylon (2012), ‘London doesn’t belong to anyone, it’s whoever goes in at any given moment’ expressing the beauty of the city.


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