Khadi or the ‘freedom’ fabric has largely been associated with Mahatma Gandhi, but no one would have bet that the humble weave would pass the test of time. Thanks to the millennial trend, neutral palettes or pastel shades are seeing a revival and so is homegrown khadi.
Khadi or ‘khaddar’ basically refers to handspun, handwoven natural fabric originating from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The cotton weave makes it breathable, though the cloth may also include silk or wool, which are all spun into yarn on a spinning wheel called a charkha, something that was famously used by Gandhi to weave his dhoti. The fabric is cool in summer and warm in winter.
Khadi is being promoted in India by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), which is an initiative by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. KVIC is entrusted with the task of providing financial assistance to institutions and individuals for the development and operation of khadi and village industries; guiding them through the supply of designs, prototypes and other technical information.
If you are not living under a rock, you know that sustainable fashion is the need of the hour, with a bunch of designers working to make khadi more wearable.
Priyanshi Jariwala, the founder of The Khadi Cult, can be partly credited with getting the attention of millennial Instagrammers through her quirky designs. “The reason for picking khadi is primarily the versatility of the fabric, its national importance and the fact that it hasn’t received its due. The fabric is eco-friendly and generates employment for weavers as well. That was enough for me to get started. We are trying to weave a new story with khadi and the inspiration for our prints comes from daily life. The idea is to appeal to a younger segment,” she said while talking to indianexpress.com.
The Khadi Cult generally works around co-ordinated sets, funky shirts, graphic pantsuits, things that one won’t associate with khadi at first glance. Jariwala comments, “Something like a ‘dabba’ print was an ode to the dabbawalas of Mumbai. The whale print addressed the issue of depleting marine life. The key is addressing serious themes subtly, bringing different elements together with fun graphics. We typically use digital printing, which makes it easier to get desired colours. The Chai, Matsya and Hari Sawari prints are some of my favourites.”
The Surat brand, however, doesn’t weave its own fabrics, but sources it from government-run Khadi institutions. “We work with khadi cotton and muslins and the latter is my favourite. The challenge of working and experimenting with the same fabric gives us a creative high,” adds Jariwala.
Hyderabad-based textile designer Gaurag Shah will be unveiling nearly 30 khadi saris, its patterns inspired by Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings. Coincidently, the master class painter’s death anniversary falls on October 2 and to bring more relevance to this day, the designer came up with this amalgamation.
The saris have been woven using 150-count fine khadi, with the yarn procured from Ganjam Zilla Khadi Gramodyog Sangh in Odisha. Two hundred kilograms of dupion silk yarn was dyed in 600 hues of natural dyes, for the weavers to replicate the paintings using the Srikakulam jamdani technique.
Isha Priya Singh who is one of the genuine loves of Indian textile and is often seen giving out tips and tricks on using drapes in versatile ways and for all seasons. Through her Instagram posts with the name desidrapes, she puts out conversations around Indian fabric and traces its history. “Khadi is a process to create textiles. A variety of fabrics can be created through Khadi and they can lend themselves to any and every style. I do love wearing Khadi but it isn’t easy to find genuine and well-designed Khadi clothes. Especially now that the Khadi Commission has made it difficult for private designer labels to use the word Khadi. People who love Indian textiles mostly have Khadi in their collections. Nothing stops them. Like I already said, Khadi is just a textile. It can lend itself to any and every style”, she said while talking to indianexpress.com.
“Khadi is the answer to a spiritual as well as a sustainable way of life. Cow dung and silicone are used as softening materials. Value-addition is done through hand-painting, printing, and surface ornamentation techniques. It is the only fabric that doesn’t use fossil fuel. Sustainable fashion will move as a core element to inspire companies rooted in designing a better future,” points out Rupal Dalal, Executive Director, JD Institute of Fashion Technology.
Apart from ace designers like Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla and Sabyasachi Mukherjee, there are others making their mark in khadi and giving it the platform it deserves. Ashish Satyavrat Sahu, who is popularly known as khadi-wala-designer on Instagram, works with tribals in Ranchi, Jharkhand.
“Since 2012, when I was working in Gujarat, I have been attracted to this versatile fabric. I try to combine Jharkhand’s rich art and craft such as Sohrai and Kohvar along with khadi to make something that can appeal to everyone. With the help of KVIC, I am aiming at making an all-women based khadi readymade manufacturing unit in Ranchi. I want to include as many tribal native people of the state as possible. Their hardworking nature inspires me to do better. With designers making khadi trendy, there are more buyers,” Sahu says.
It’s not an easy process though, he points out, since besides keeping an eye on the amount of starch used, one has to choose the right trims and cuts, besides buttons in wood or coconut, to complement the fabric. There’s no debating that khadi remains immensely wearable for every generation.