Breathable, rhythmic, textured, a blank canvas, versatile – just some of the words used by people who have fallen for the charms of the homegrown khadi. Not only does this handspun fabric come with an entire nation’s history behind it, it is one of the most conscious and environmentally friendly. After years of being weighed down by the weight of its own history, this fabric is seeing a resurgence with designers re-inventing it and securing its place in the contemporary narrative. On Gandhi Jayanti, we speak to a few designers to understand what drew them to khadi and why it continues to enthral them.
For Rameshwari Kaul and Vinayak Sharma, Gandhi Jayanti is symbolic in more ways than one. With Cotton Rack, the two fashion contemporary garments solely out of khadi and it was on October 2, 2014 that their first collection went live. “Khadi is an extremely minimal and conscious fabric apart from being legendary. It has a lesser carbon footprint than most others. It is handspun so doesn’t need electricity. One meter of khadi needs just 3 litres of water,” says Kaul, who rues the fact that weavers have been leaving due to low wages. “But we’re now trying to adopt a few clusters and pay them three times the wages so they get swayed by other options.”
The fabric itself, says Kaul, is extremely giving. It can be worn both in summer and winter, has a beautiful texture and rhythm of its own and can be moulded into striking garments without additional embellishments. “This time at Dastkaar Haat we got huge orders from people from Japan. We believe that’s because our garments have a very zen and soothing quality which appeals to the Japanese aesthetic. That is, in fact, what we are trying to do with Cotton Rack and khadi is the perfect material for that,” says Kaul.
(Clockwise from L to R: A Cotton Rack creation; founders Rameshwari Kaul and Vinayak Sharma)
Indian Ethnic Co
Conceptualized by the mother-daughter duo of Hetal and Lekhinee Mandeep Desai, Indian Ethnic Co has a simple philosophy – to work with materials that are handwoven, breathable, comfortable and skin-friendly. And there’s an abundance of that in this country, says Hetal, who loves that khadi has a raw appeal that adds so much character to a garment. “Our aim is to use khadi as a fabric but make it into silhouettes and with patterns that will appeal to a younger audience. That is the only way we can attract them to wearing handspun fabric, which actually is much more suited to India,” she says.
(L to R: A block-printed khadi dress; founders Lekhinee and Hetal Mandeep Desai)
The Ananda Life
A trip to Auroville changed Roopal Awal. “I bought garments from the design community there and didn’t want to wear anything else after that. These were all made from handwoven, local fabrics, which is when she discovered the charms of khadi. For her label The Ananda Life, Awal works with natural fabrics like muslin, linen and recently fashion an entire collection from khadi. “The label has been envisioned keeping comfort and accessibility in mind. I want to make khadi accessible to younger people. They should also understand the joy of wearing well designed clothes in local fabrics,” she says.
Awal says khadi to her is a blank canvas – it can be moulded from day to night wear, it can be worn in all seasons and is extremely versatile. “The world over people are seeking this fabric for its exclusivity since its handspun and thus limited.”
(L to R: A top by The Ananda Life; founder Roopal Awal)
Love The World Today
Started by sisters Dipti Ahuja and Dipna Daryanani, Love The World Today has a simple ideology – to make kids’ clothes that are comfortable and sustainable. “During my work I read a lot about the environmental effects of the fashion industry, which is why we were sure that the label had to be conscious. Also, Dipti has a four-year-old daughter and it was a struggle for her to find clothes that fit a certain aesthetic,” says Dipna who worked as a dance artist and educator.
Choosing khadi then made perfect sense. “For us sustainability is also about sustaining the weavers and the craft, which is what we’re trying to do with our label. Khadi as a fabric is homegrown and supports a craft that is intrinsically ours.”
(Love The World Today works with conscious materials like khadi)