“I visited the amazing corner of London known as ‘Little India’ and the high street was a treasure trove of beautiful bridal shops” – Martin Elvery

There is color everywhere! Flowing saris and pink, green, blue and red suits shimmering with sequins. Pile upon pile of intricately patterned silk scarves. Rows and rows of glittering bracelets in every hue imaginable. Shiny gold choker, necklaces and Jhumkas (earrings). This is Southall’s main shopping street. It has absolutely everything you can think of and more if you are planning a traditional Asian wedding.

It’s a far cry from the place of 50 years ago which, as Janpal Basran told me at the nearby town hall, was like any other English town with “a butcher, a baker, a fishmonger, etc. “. In the 1960s, immigrants began to find jobs with local rubber workers (now demolished) and set the ball rolling for a cultural revolution.

Within a decade, the city was dubbed England’s ‘Little India’ and was at the center of some of the fiercest racist violence seen in London. You can read this story of heartbreak and heroism here.

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The number of chockers and Jhumkas (earrings) on display is staggering

But 50 years later, the Broadway is lined with Asian clothing boutiques, snack shops, gold shops and jewelry. On one side you have bazaars and market style stalls and on the other the more exclusive upper class outlets. The only small nods to Western culture are a Greggs in the middle of the stretch, a McDonald’s, Shoe Zone and a few banks.

At Direct Retail Fashion Jewellery, I find an Aladdin’s cave of bracelets, necklaces, necklaces and Jhumkas (earrings), and on a Friday afternoon it’s absolutely bustling. A glamorous young staff serves women who shop for accessories. Manmeet tells me that most people shop here for weddings and parties.

I ask him if his products appeal to a particular religion or tradition. “All,” he said. “Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Punjabi, not one.” This is a message I will hear over and over again today.



Choose a color, any color!

Crushed between clothing shops, pawnbrokers buy gold. Not everything is glamorous. Most of the shops here are actually quite reasonably priced – although there are a few high-end boutiques scattered around. It attests to the working-class character of the district.

People may like to dress up for family weddings, but the roots of this neighborhood are working class. Mothers and fathers who worked for years in factories or at Heathrow to provide a better life for their families.

Increasingly, this has enabled younger generations to become professionals and entrepreneurs, often driven by their parents to succeed. But it is still a loyal Labor region.



Direct Retail Fashion Jewelery staff were doing a busy job

Just up the road, at another shop called Glamor UK, Indy proudly tells me that their products come straight from India – factories in Mumbai, Delhi and Rajasthan.

Again, he tells me that people will shop here mainly for weddings and parties. But it’s not expensive to buy here. He tells me his most expensive suit is around £350 and the cheapest around £120. There is also a bespoke Afghan tailor in the store who makes bespoke items and fitting items.

Inside the Himalaya Mall, there are more and more stalls selling the same things, each seeming to outdo each other in the sheen of their clothes.



Some of the beautiful necklaces on sale

Again, I ask one of the merchants if his wares are for a specific tradition or religion. “This place is like Delhi,” he says. “It’s a complete mix of Asia, India and the West. People literally come from all over the world to shop here.”

Across the road, where the Jewelery Trunk’s most exclusive shops are, I talk to Karan, a 27-year-old entrepreneur, who also has shops in Birmingham, and his business in Southall seems to be booming.

Her store is full of beautiful sets of bridal necklaces, necklaces, luxury bracelets Jhumkas, Balis (earrings) called choora, tikka (worn on the forehead) and many other beautiful items.



Indy was happy to pose for a photo next to the wedding suits

“You have to understand that an Asian wedding will cost you a minimum of £100,000 and up to £250,000 by the time you have the clothes, jewellery, caterers, photographers, videographer etc. he says.

I ask him if he is getting married soon. “No,” he said smiling. He’s going to focus on his business but his sister got married recently so he knows exactly what’s in it!

Again, I ask him if he deals with a specific tradition or religion. Are there catering stores for everyone? There are thousands of traditions and styles from all parts of India after all. “It’s more and more mixed now,” he says. “People borrow from the traditions of others.”



Glamor UK is full of party equipment

At the confectionery and bakery down the street, I marvel at the traditional Indian delicacies on sale. Syrupy, lightly spiced lumps of all shapes and sizes and many colors ranging from bright pink and green to yellow and orange.

Tea rusks, cream buns, coconut cookies. Pink Coconut Chamchams, Patosa and Habshi Halva to name a few. You don’t need to eat a lot because the candies are ridiculously rich, but they melt in your mouth.

The man behind the counter tells me that these too are mostly bought for parties and celebrations. But I think I can spot a few customers buying them for Friday night treats.



Khanna posing with the wedding costumes

Occasionally there are shops selling a range of Indian snacks that you won’t find in many restaurants, and as with so much about India, the variety of what’s on offer is simply amazing. Some of the stalls on the street side, however, are much less traditional. I spot one that sells a dozen kinds of Naan bread, including Nutella Naan!

Walking on Broadway is exhilarating, loud, vibrant and delicious.



Some very sweet sweets on sale in confectioneries

But while it’s touristy in some ways and attracts British Asians from all over the UK and beyond, you get the feeling it’s also rooted in real families and serves a very real purpose in providing the festive clothes and the snacks families need to keep their traditions alive. Nor is it exclusive.

There is wealth here, but you can also shop here on a budget. It is telling that most stores stock imitation gold rather than real gold. It’s a truly amazing place, and definitely the place to go if you’re planning a wedding.



One of Broadway’s most traditional restaurants

Indians are the largest non-British community in the capital according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Southall is home to more Indians than anywhere else in the UK. It also has the largest population in Punjab outside India.

There are approximately 319,000 Indians in London and over 4,000 of them live in Southall. As of the 2011 census, 35.4% of Southall’s population was Sikh, 24.9% Islamic and 18.6% Hindu.

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