By Subha Ali
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Hindu holiday Holi is an important celebration for many Indian Americans. Many stores in the Pacific Northwest thrive during this holiday season because many people are buying traditional clothing to wear on the holiday.
“I’m always in business because I am able to provide to my entire community, for any holiday and event people come and buy clothing, accessories, and household items,” says Madhuri Akula, the owner of Gold N Looks, a clothing store located in Redmond.
Holi was on March 8 and is one of the most popular festivals in India, celebrating the love of the god Radha Krishna. Although the festivals are in India, Hindus in the U.S. celebrate with families and friends, and there several events in western Washington celebrating Holi in the coming weeks.
The Pacific Northwest has many South Asian clothing stores. Here you can find casual clothing, formal clothing, accessories, and customary items which can be worn at weddings, and holidays. The majority of these are from India and Pakistan.
Traditional clothing is a part of the culture, said University of Washington International Studies Professor Christian Novetzke. One’s traditional ethnic clothing can make an individual feel proud, identified, and part of a community, Novetzke said.
There are many similarities between Indian and Pakistani clothing, but there are differences in the color, design, embellishments, and cut.
People wear special occasion clothing for traditional ceremonies, especially weddings. They wear traditional clothing for other occasions like Diwali, Eid, and Holi, said Novetzke.
Akula also adds that people come into her store to buy clothes, accessories, and customary items for birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, housewarmings, dances, and small parties.
“For events like housewarmings and baby showers, South Asians like to give traditional items that they grew up with, and having them available to them helps keep the tradition alive,” said Akula.
There is a significant impact on communities to have access to clothing from their culture. It gives a sense of comfort, and personal expression, said Novetzke.
Akula said. “Everything I sell is connected to the customs and values that we Indians grew up with and are missing from living in America.”
Being connected to your roots is very important in the South Asian community, Novetzke said. “Having clothing that reflects your cultural origins available where you live makes you feel at home. It also provides a way to share your cultural heritage with others.”
As of 2020, according to the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, there were 147,656 combined Indian and Pakistani Americans living in Washington state, with the population continuing to grow.
Akula said she has people from all ethnic backgrounds who purchase things from her store. “Interracial marriages, which have become very common, bring in people from all ethnic backgrounds into the store,” she said. “Besides interracial marriages, children that grow up in America have friends from all ethnic backgrounds and invite them to holidays, events, and parties. Those friends also purchase items for those instances.”
This keeps the industry going. While most people do not buy South Asian clothing for everyday wear while living in the U.S., they have multiple occasions to wear the clothes.
There are clothing stores in Redmond, Kent, Bellevue, Seattle, and Bothell, all locally owned small businesses, including Colors of Redmond, Sakkhi Style, Indian Selection, Ensemble, and more. The stores vary in what they sell from traditional casual clothing like Kurtis to formal wear like Saris and Lenghas.