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Reflecting on first saree shop in Belgrave, Leicester
Milans in 1975
By 1975 Milans saree shop was a recognisable name in Belgrave, Leicester

A Leicester shop has been looking back over its 41 year history as part of the BBC's Turn Back Time campaign.

When Milans opened in 1969 it was the only shop on Belgrave Road to sell sarees, the traditional Asian dress worn by women.

In 2010 it is one of many businesses on the now renowned Golden Mile to sell clothes targeted at Asian shoppers.

The shop, currently owned by Kishore and Jyoti Chauhan, was first started by Kishore's mother Vijya Chauhan.

The Chauhan family moved to the UK from East Africa in the 1960s.

Vijya soon spotted a gap in the market when she found it difficult to find traditional Asian clothes and items in Leicester for her daughter's wedding.

From small beginnings

Milans first started operating from 114 Belgrave Road, where they shared the shop floor with a sewing machine business.

Milans saree department in the 1970s
Price is what people tend to look for now and the history of the saree has been lost
Jyoti Chauhan, Milans

From there they expanded and opened in their current location in 1969, selling sarees and household utensils.

Initially they imported sarees from Japan because of the superior quality of the material at that time.

Milans had their own in-house designs and created the Ruby Queen Saree in the late 70's and 80's.

Sarees were often passed on from mother to daughter because of their unique quality and style, but now the whole market has changed and sarees come from factories in Surat, Gujarat.

Jyoti said, "Price is what people tend to look for now and the history of the saree has been lost. It's a shame and people need to be educated to appreciate the beauty of the saree."

Changing fashions

Kishor remembers that the shop was a lot busier back then, as there was less competition.

A couple pose with their new washing machine in Milans
This couple won a washing machine as part of a 1970s Milans promotion

He believes one of the biggest changes has been the customers' understanding of the latest fashion; now they are well informed by films and the internet, whereas in the past they relied on the shopkeeper's knowledge.

In the 1970s the shop organised many giveaways and events to pull in new business, including in-store appearances by pop and Bollywood artists.

Promotions continued into the boom period of the 80's but stopped in the 90's when consumer attitudes began to change.

Jyoti Chauhan said, "There was always something going on keeping customers interested. Now people prefer discounts rather than something free.

"In those days, they used to appreciate even a Bollywood calendar; they were so popular!"





Hands on History



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