Resurgence of Khadi in India in 2021

Resurgence of Khadi in India in 2021

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A lot happened in 2020. While we still live our lives recuperating through the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the past, the Indian fashion industry underwent a sea change with designers and brands going on a craft and textile revival journey – right from ‘Make in India’ to ‘Vocal for Local’. Fashion industry in India, and at larger scale globally, is going through a much-needed phase of revolution. Indian designers and brands are consciously bringing back the Indian crafts and handlooms by working alongside the artisans, a major game changer in the way Indian crafts will be perceived globally.

Living in a world that is wobbled by trends & seasons of Fashion weeks across the globe and incessant chatter of do’s and don’ts, it is hard to scout fashion that remains true to its roots. As India remembers 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi and the Khadi Movement, Ciceroni takes you through this thousand-year-old textile’s resurgence journey.

The Beginning:

From listening to the tales of India’s freedom struggle from our grandparents to reading about Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts in rekindling Khadi, we are all well aware on the spinning charkha became the national symbol during the freedom struggle. Derived from the word ‘khaddar’, (meaning hand spun in the subcontinent), the history of India’s ancient handmade textile tradition goes back to 400BC according to Greek historian, Herodotus. As time passed, during the late 17th century, Indian fabrics were so superior that they dominated European markets, and were eventually banned by the French and British to reduce competition for their own machine-made cloth to be consumed by Indians in India.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who brought back pride in Indian textiles by asking his fellow citizens to ban British materials and instead wear khadi to support India’s rural economy.

“If we have the ‘khadi spirit’ in us, we would surround ourselves with simplicity in every walk of life. The ‘khadi spirit’ means infinite patience. For those who know anything about the production of khadi know how patiently the spinners and the weavers have to toil at their trade, and even so must we have patience while we are spinning the thread of Swaraj”

Mahatma Gandhi

In 1925, in the aftermath of the Non-Cooperation Movement, All India Spinners Association was established with the aim of propagating, producing and selling khadi. For the next two decades, the organisation worked tirelessly to improve khadi production techniques and provide employment to India’s poor weavers.

The Resurgence:

Post-independence, The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) was formed to develop and encourage the production of the fabric in the country. By the early 90s, khadi made its way as a fashion statement. In 1989, KVIC organised the first khadi fashion show in Bombay, where over 80 styles of khadi ensembles were showcased. It was only in 1990, that famed designer Ritu Beri presented her first khadi collection at the prestigious Tree of Life show held at Delhi’s craft museum, propelling the fabric into the global fashion platform.

Couturier Sabyasachi Mukherjee has been championing Khadi since 2002. Arguably being the first Indian designer to use this humble textile for bridal couture, Sabyasachi in an interview shared “As a bridal designer, I keep thinking, ‘What’s next?’, and I keep coming back to khadi. For me, it is the equivalent of wellness, and nothing can be more luxurious than that. When I look back at the last 20 years, my khadi bridal lehengas are what I’m most proud of. Some of my most discerning customers globally have chosen to wear khadi lehengas for their wedding.”

 Furthermore, to bring Khadi to the mainstream consumer market, large-scale apparel manufacturers like The Aditya Birla group launched ‘Khadi by Peter England’ for its menswear brand in late 2017, while Raymond worked with 100 khadi clusters at the grassroots level to launch a luxury collection called ‘Khadi, the Story Re-Spun’ in its Indian and international stores. This humble fabric was the subject of an exhibit by Issey Miyake at the 21-21 Design Sight in Tokyo and showcased again in 2019 at the brand’s New York store. Rahul Mishra used khadi in his collection for Paris Fashion Week 2019.

Today as we live in the so-called millennial era, where there are prolific discussions around sustainability, conscious clothing, ‘Make in India’ and ‘Vocal for Local’, we have seen how designers have changed the way in which fashion is seen and perceived in India. Once known to be a conventional politician uniform and a symbol of a self-reliant India, Khadi, today, has come out to be one of the most embraced fabrics among the fashion-conscious audience – from khadi denims to khadi lehengas.

If you are a craft connoisseur and your idea of “Khadi” invokes visuals of mundane Nehru jackets and kurtas, we suggest our favourite labels that boast of unique Khadi styles to shop from!

  • Khadiwala Designer

Ashish Satyavrat Sahu, Founder – Khadiwala Designer happens to be the only fashion designer in India who uses Khadi extensively for designing both traditional and western ensembles. Dominated by a seamless blend of Khadi and tribal arts, his collections combine Jharkhand’s rich art and craft such as Sohrai and Kohvar along with khadi to create apparels that appeal to everyone. From longline contemporary jackets to dresses and sarees that narrate tales of India’s tribal cultures, the label has it all!

  • Khanijo

Since his debut on the Gen Next runway at Lakme Fashion Week winter/festive 2016, Gaurav Khanijo’s eponymous label is known for its purpose: providing a glimpse into the future of Indian fashion with fabrics that showcase the country’s rich craft roots. Think of contemporary cuts and sharp tailoring, if you are an admirer of Indo-western fashion.

  • Akaaro by Gaurav Jai Gupta

Translating into the Sanskrit alphabet ‘a’, the label places handwoven textiles as the starting point of the design process. As a trained weaver, Gaurav Jai Gupta experiments with the loom and has earned recognition on the international fashion scene, with successful collaborations with Jimmy Choo and Heminstone Paris, among others, as well as a spot in the research archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Pour out your love for the edgy sarees from Akaaro’s collection if you are a saree hoarder.

  • Yavi

Designer Yavi Agarwal’s take on impressionist art is forged with a deep-rooted love for textiles. Today, the label’s uniquely hand-painted line-up where art-meets-fashion ideology, is crafted on khadi base. The hand spun fabric is given a modern-day facelift with layers of hand-painting using blocks and found objects, including crumpled newspaper balls and sticks. We recommend you go for the statement jackets to give your streetwear a quick makeover!

  • Kharakapas

Translating to pure cotton in Hindi, and true to its origin, Kharakapas thrives on local fabrics and handmade creations. Bohemian at heart, Khara Kapas’ jackets, co-ord sets and dresses featuring neutral hues and minimal embellishments, are perfect if you are scouting for ways to incorporate Khadi into your contemporary closet!

If there is one textile that you need to bring in your conscious wardrobe going forward, it better be khadi.

Aishwarya Menon

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