Amrikan Gothic

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p>Apart from Kal Penn’s little brother’s five-minute Goth phase in the movie Where’s the Party, Yaar?, South Asian Goths seem to be largely absent from the desi cultural landscape.  While doing some extensive research on the topic, I learned that a Google search for “South Asian Goths” yields no results, that “Indian Goth” leads largely to porn links, and that half of Google’s “Desi Goths” results point to some guy’s profile on RateDesi: the Desi Hot or Not.  (His average rating is a 7.7393.)  But there’s also this guy:

Shumit Basu designs custom corsets and other items for his label Underground Aristocracy, which has been “hand-crafting corsets for the discerning corset enthusiast since 1997 using a range of materials from fine silk to leather.”  Basu studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the London College of Fashion, and has been designing for over ten years. Underground Aristocracy currently offers a large selection of corsets for sale, and also promises that more items including bridal wear, accessories, skirts, and cats (?) will soon be available online.

Basu’s work has been mentioned in Time Out New York:

His tattered sketchbook, on which he’s inscribed Le Saint Grimoire de la Mode (“Sacred Magic Book of Fashion”), reveals influences from the 1600s to the 1980s. His Justine model, based on a 17th-century nursing corset ($400), is radically updated in S&M-inspired black cowhide; its breast flaps unbuckle to reveal bare nipples. Another design, Verdächtig (German for “suspicious”), owes more to the 19th century. It’s a waist cincher, worn under the bust, and is stunning in red raw silk with black side-laces ($200).

I think it’s nice that Basu is doing his part to encourage breastfeeding among new mothers.  An interview with Basu can be found in Morbid Outlook magazine.  In it, he discusses the significance of his label’s label:

MORBID OUTLOOK: Why “The Underground Aristocracy”? It’s an elegant but long name!
SHUMIT: I have been a bit concerned about the length of the name, it is something of a mouthful. The idea behind the name reflects an attitude I’ve sometimes perceived in the gothic scene that gothic people are somehow more special and deserving than other sorts of people. Kind of like “if only I was living in the 17th century…” So in a sense, the gothic scene represents a sort of modern day aristocracy, but as no one else might agree with this, it’s underground, hidden from sight. I have considered using my own name, but I think I’ll save that for some future project.

Future projects?  Do tell!

Eventually I would like to open my own store, but in the more immediate future I’m concerned with expanding the on-line catalogue, and finding retailers that will stock my work. I think some people may prefer the convenience of ready-to-wear corsets. I would also like to go beyond corsets into other areas of women’s and men’s wear. I think of my clothes as being gothic, but I wish to expand the concept of what constitutes gothic attire, and I would like it if my clothes appeal to a broader group outside the gothic and fetish scenes.

Maybe Basu will inspire Sepia Mutiny to add some nursing corsets to their own fashion line

44 thoughts on “Amrikan Gothic

  1. Okay, this is taking the obsession with fairness to a whole new level… ha ha.

    But seriously, though it’s not my scene, it’s always good to see browns expand/diversify their horizons.

  2. but can you call him “brown” anymore? I think there are geishas that look pretty kallu next to this guy…

    It’s a shame he went to all the trouble of putting on such lovely eye makeup and hides behind those glasses ;)

  3. I am the resident Sikh goth, which is an even more obscure and persecuted minority than the Desi goth. Not only do I have brown skin, I have way too much hair to be accepted by the hair-phobic Goth mainstream. Oh, and I should probably cut down on the Gulab Jamuns and Aloo Parathas a tad; it might help a little if I didn’t weigh as much as two waifs.

    Indeed, since I don’t look at all like a goth, I am one mainly on the inside — my goth melodrama, angst, and melancholy are what define me. Others do yoga. I recite:

    Love… will tear us apart… again

    Love… will tear us apart… again

    While gazing at my cracked reflection in the shards of a broken mirror.

  4. While gazing at my cracked reflection in the shards of a broken mirror.

    yes, fellow batcaver– but have you ever named a blog post after a siouxsie tune? ransacked libraries (before there were internets, kiddies) to find the exact shade and creator of robert smith’s red lipstick? watched The Hunger on repeat? chosen to do an analysis of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles for your AP English project? ;)

    i’m dead i’m dead i’m dead

  5. Love… will tear us apart… again Love… will tear us apart… again

    i didn’t realize joy division wrote the mantras of today’s goths.

  6. i didn’t realize joy division wrote the mantras of today’s goths.

    i’m running out of time i’m out of step and closing down and never sleep for wanting hours the empty hours of greed and uselessly always the need to feel again the real belief of something more than mockery if only i could fill my heart with love

  7. Oh, and I should probably cut down on the Gulab Jamuns and Aloo Parathas a tad

    That’s what those corsets are for!

    I don’t look at all like a goth, I am one mainly on the inside

    I’m an exhibitionist on the inside.

  8. Hey I’m desi, and I play speed-metal and goth metal, and stick my birdlegs into drainpipe leather pants. We do exist.

  9. I knew of one north indian goth. A real one too. Listened to early Bauhaus, and skinny puppy and all that. I have yet to meet a Malayalee Goth though. That would be kinda funny.

  10. Rating people on a 10-point scale…yuck…that’s so…desi.

    Sounds like what happens in the desi college scene in India where every new student gets a ‘market rating’. Of course, this soon gets attached to a price tag.

    Yuck…I think I’ll go gag and retch…

  11. I finally got a chance to click through these links on a non-public computer. The librarian yesterday glared at me when I stupidly clicked on underground aristocracy. :-)

    Thanks, ADS!

    I was trying to explain to someone the other day how I was sort of a closet Goth in high school, despite the fact that my wearing black all the time isn’t much different than my wearing black all the time now. (And, I also dress ludicrously colorfully too of course.) It certainly wasn’t excessively about the clothes, I was too goody for that. Amardeep has hit the nail on the head, of course. It was all beneath the surface. Lots of books on vampires and witches, lots of Sandman, lots and lots of morbid poetry. Goth teenagers make more sense to me than most other genres. Especially the aristocracy bit. Reminds me of a great New Yorker story I read once costarring a Hispanic Goth. I’m still waiting on a Dead Can Dance style dhol song.

    That Alston is pretty fly. The workmanship looks painstaking and detailed enough that I’m almost willing to grant the price is not just excessive fashionista markup. Still, not for bohemians like me. :-)

  12. Hi,

    Actually, I’m Desi and I’ve been a Goth for at least 10 years now. There’s not a lot of Desigoths out there, but there are definitely some.

    I actually created an LJ community for Asians/Desis who are Goths: http://www.livejournal.com/community/asiangoths/

    I originally wanted to call it “Desigoth” but I thought that would restrict membership too much. If anyone is interested, please check it out! New members are always welcome.

  13. Rating people on a 10-point scale…yuck…that’s so…desi

    Yo Studley, I believe the first website to rate people in such a ‘yucky’ manner was hotornot, distinctly NOT desi.

    However. Copying an idea and calling it your own…now THAT’S desi.

    I thought I met an Indian goth. Turns out he was just a Parsi with anaemia. But I do know Indian punks, mods, grungers, hippies and plenty of desi chavs. ‘yuck’.

  14. Bong Breaker,

    I think you’re going to have to explain the meaning of the word “chav”, for the benefit of our yankee desi friends…..;)

    By the way — are you ‘Rohin’ on the Pickled Politics website ? I know you’ve mentioned you’ve posted on that blog before, and clicking on Rohin’s name in his messages takes one to the Daily Rhino blog.

  15. Nooo! You’ve revealed my immensely secret identity! How did you figure it out? Re-arranging the word ‘Rhino’? Clicking on Anna’s link to a piece by ‘Rohin’ saying it was written by Bong Breaker? Or was it the fact that Rohin and Bong Breaker lead to the same site? Confound it Holmes, how do you do it?!

    I think a lot of Americans know what chav means, oddly enough. I’m sure there’s some urban dictionary thing that says it. Or just look at Jai. Right, I’m off!

  16. Re-arranging the word ‘Rhino’?

    Yes, but I thought it might be a coincidence.

    Clicking on Anna’s link to a piece by ‘Rohin’ saying it was written by Bong Breaker?

    No, I had no idea Anna had linked to one of your stories recently. I haven’t been visiting SM for very long, remember.

    Or was it the fact that Rohin and Bong Breaker lead to the same site

    It set off some alarm bells but I thought it could be another coincidence. But I did notice your writing styles were very similar, hence my question to confirm if it was you. While we’re on this topic, your posts on Pickled Politics have been excellent — I’ve usually agreed with whatever you’ve written. Also, one of your posts which said “I’m bored of you and your poor spelling” made me laugh my head off — very cutting indeed ;)

    I think a lot of Americans know what chav means, oddly enough.

    Interesting. I guess the closest US equivalent is “trailer trash”.

  17. I thought I met an Indian goth. Turns out he was just a Parsi with anaemia.

    damn you BB! I just snorted tea out my nose!

    Kudos to ads for this post. I’ve always been curious about how non-pale goths cope. I had a brief moment of listening to Nietzer Ebb and crying in my room (not at the same time – impossible!) but the bring brown thing really threw it off. I felt like I was too dark to pull off Goth style. Also, I grew up.

  18. “Sigh! Finally, it just feels so reassuring to know that ppl actually discuss the previously unheard of topic of the brown goth. (breath of fresh air, and all other inane cliches…hehe) but i still dont understand, (and believe me this is earnestly trying not to hold any judgemental connotation) how can you have a brown goth? but then again, this leads to the age-old debate about “what is goth?” goth is essentially undefinable, anyway, so in conclusion, i guess the race in question does not a goth make. so seriously, i think the combination of gulab jamuns and corsets is a tad bit oxymoronish, because hey, face it, expanding waistline does not equal wraith like shape, but, you see, this is the beauty of life, its one big ironic tragicomedy anyway! brown goth zindabad!

  19. There’s this Goth Indian chic I met at SASA a while back; all the other desis were scoffing away (they seem to identify better with imitating other races like hispanics/african americans/latinos but they see some indian chic with gothic clothes and they turn the other way; Starryeiz or Starryeyez or something; starryeiz.com or starryeyz.com; she’s got her website for goth/indian musiq; she’s HOT as hell thats all I can say! I say more power to people like her for being bold enough to do their own thing, what say?!!

  20. Yea I remember her :) She had an awesum act up on stage, sumthin different 4 sure!

    Sheets :)

  21. Does anyone know if there are any online communities for Indian Goths? I’m from Trinidad myself, and it’s really hard to find people to whom I can relate. If there are any out there, please let me know…I would appreciate it greatly!

  22. heyy jus thought i’d drop by to say heeyy im half south indian n half north indian from the UK, I’ve been into metal nearly all my life even though im only 17 !

  23. I’m a fellow Desi Goth here, in case anyone is still looking at this page. :)

    I’m from Bangkok, Thailand and here we run a small but active goth community by the name of DarkAsia.

    I seem to be the only Indian goth so far, so some more would be welcome!

  24. I belive any race can be goth, although it really depends on what your personal definition of goth is, most people see goth as the image..black clothes, corcets, heavy make up and white ghostly face but goth isnt just an image, its a way of thinking, a state mind, a line of commen interests and beliefs, so at the end of the day, if you consider yourself goth. Who’s to say your not? :)

  25. I live in Trinidad (island in the caribbean) and we hae mostly indians and africans, with asians… basically, we have everything.. barely any caucaisans though. Being indian and termed ‘gothic’ by my peers, there are indian goths. Hell, they’re all over Trinidad. You see them in malls or in towns, decked out in chains and black, with makeup that only people our complexion can pull off. (trust me one can have a VERY gothic look if you have some colour)

  26. I am sooo not a closet goth…hehehe. ;) No but seriously desis who are not into the ‘mainstream’ of Bollywood and bhangra are really awesome. I love the Cure, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and I have Bauhaus, Siouxsie, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, et al on my playlist as well. My friends ask me why I wear black most of the time :) I wish there were more folks who just did their own thing instead of conforming to socially acceptable idea of what a desi ‘should’ be.

  27. Btw desis can easily fit into the goth scene since smeared black eyeliner is pretty much culturally accepted in our community ;)

  28. I live in the Caribbean. I moved here when i was 10. I am black and I consider myself into the goth subculture, since I was 14 and now i’m 21. Unlike in Trinidad, there are hardly any goths/punks/emos etc around. If you do find them, they are mostly doing it cause it looks “cool”

    I am medium brown, not a clear person, and I pull off the make up, and everyone can pick me out because of my bright red hair and my piercings. I think its kinda stupid to say “with makeup that only people our complexion can pull off.” I find it very odd that the only people in Trinidad that are into any rock subculture is Indian. Its seems like you only accept Indian goths MissMorose.

  29. There are a lot more of them than you would think. there is a lot of them on Google gothic If you stare into the Abyss long enough the Abyss stares back at you.

  30. lonely goth in need of gothic friends that know what real gothic music is like sister of mercy and bauhaus, and good industrial, like kmfdm and nin and siter machine gun, also know every new clud scene cause i grow up with them, for goth fans from new york ,,ria form the raven is having a birthday and althea has contacted gerard blacklips the only goth from the coat check of the bank , thanks to hal and natasha, miss wearing black and jewerly cause you know trinidad society, into punk, cause i know casaulities antd left over crack personally. hope to connect, cause its lonely here without another goth to intreact, i heard sioux and the banhess got a new alumb keep in touch trni goth……

  31. ok i just need to correct one thing that MissMorose said above. the trinidadians you see in the mall and stuff with the chains and so forth arent goth thats more punk(which most of them arent also). they just do it because they think it looks cool. most of them know nothig about the subculture. the way they dress would be considered punk and not goth actually. there are a few that try to pull of the black nail polish and again most of them have nothing in common with goth they just think its cool.

    so in conclusion they dress like punk and not goth. and againt its just new “fashion trend”.

    how do i knw?! u may ask ……well im a teenager from trinidad who actually knows and follows the gothic subcult. well i dnt really dress like it but otherwise oh and im also of african descent

  32. in the gothic mood, e-mail sjohnathan34@live.com, or cybergoth@live.com. gerard blacklips, here, and refresh, on bauhaus and sister of mercy, execpt don,t go to cybercafes, it cost an arm and leg, its, been hell looking for music all over the internet, and no one knowing what it means, if any trinidians,can read this, reply included miss momross, i haven,t tried the places like malls yet cause it like mainstream, so, lets party with peirce, tatoo, wearing black dye hair tattoo, crazy party people that need space, and music, with a big burger and fries, with a eggcream and chili cheese fries, party on goth babes and dudes,

  33. that’s so true jst anthr grl, they wear all the metalhead and dark punk fashion and some even listen to rock music thus consider themselves ‘goth’. they like the fashion because it’s ‘cool’ but they really don’t live the lifestyle, these self appointed goths. i myself listen to the old (or gothic) rock bands like KMFDM, sisters of mercy and such but since i didn’t live in the 80′s i don’t appreciate it as much as i should. i am more into the recent dark symphonic metal, gothic metal of bands such as Nightwish, HIM and death metal and the darkwave genre like Nox Arcana… anyway, i am in much need of some new gothic friends for normal peolpla are such a bore, i want to delve further into our dark little world,. i would really like to go to more rock clubs with some real goths, anyone want to be friends my email is uchihraeven@hotmail.com i am 18 female trinidad. thank you >_<