Fashion designers are striving to make the fabric of freedom more fun, fashionable, hip and cool.
Khadi has been slowly transcending boundaries. The fabric that is symbolic of the country’s freedom, is being promoted on various platforms by designers who are giving the traditional fabric a modern avatar to bring to the fore its true potential and catapult it to the global arena.
The Fashion Design Council of India along with Khadi Village and Industries Commission (KVIC), as a part of the SME Convention 2018 hosted by Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), recently held a fashion show in the capital highlighting the traditional fabric in a contemporary light. Leading designers Rohit Bal, Anju Modi, Payal Jain and Poonam Bhagat showcased innovative modern twists to khadi ensembles in white, black, indigo and mustard.
Talking about her experiments with khadi, Jain shares, “I am very proud of my roots and textile heritage and it’s my constant endeavour to work with Indian textiles and crafts, many of which are on the verge of extinction.” She describes her collections as a canvas of organic, natural and handloom textiles. “I love experimenting with our traditional weaving and embroidery techniques to create modern and contemporary silhouettes. I feel blessed to have been born an Indian and have the opportunity to work with this precious heritage of textiles, embroideries and crafts. My love for natural fabrics constantly draws me towards handloom textiles in blends of cotton, silk, wool, and khadi being hand-spun, remains the most organic and sustainable technique known to Indians. It is my personal favourite as it is a source of income to the fast vanishing weaving and spinning clusters across India.”
Designer Anavila too enjoys working with traditional handlooms. “I would not say that I am seeking to transform khadi. The quest is to bring this beautiful fabric back to where it belongs. It was a way of life which we as a country followed for a very long time.”
For Anavila it’s not only the fabric of India, it’s also something with immense fashion possibilities. The comfort and ease it brings to the wearer are unparalleled. “My work predominantly focuses on linen but I have always kept a part of our collection that uses khadi. We blend the two yarns and the result is beautiful.”
Jain finds khadi a very versatile fabric. “I had tremendous fun creating this young, exuberant and cool line for the young at heart. The prints are inspired by traditional block printing techniques, trims that add a minimal touch of colour, fun silhouettes and the monochromatic palette. Simplicity, grace and understated usage of colour was the primary inspiration behind this collection that I call ‘Born of Khadi’,” shares Jain whose last collection Forbidden Love, was inspired by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It was a kaleidoscope of vibrant colour, texture, print, and embroidery. “I think I was saturated with colour for a while and hence turned to my classic sensibility of black and white, which has always been my forte.”
“Khadi, it’s not just a fabric, it’s the pride of our nation,” says designer Rashmi Solanki who presented her collection Rudra. Talking about her love for khadi she says, “My collection is an amalgamation of khadi which has an ability to keep cool in summer and consists of contemporary designs for the beach souls. Khadi cotton and vegetable dyed silk, coconut shell buttons and minimal use of plastic, only for zippers, makes my collection eco-friendly. I am happy that various platforms have started something that was much needed in India to open a new market for Indian designers.”
She adds, “Just like fingerprints, no two khadi samples are alike, which was a challenge while sourcing fabric from different khadi gram udyogs.” Khadi continues to be special in many ways for her as the world moves towards industrial, fast fashion. “It’s the fabric of freedom that continues to generate income for the rural poor. With 70 per cent of khadi artisans being women, it reminds us, the country, of its legacy of sustainable living,” she says.
But how does the future of khadi look in the fashion industry? “We are recognising our roots and focussing on our resources and skill set,” says Anavila, adding, “It’s a very positive shift and I am sure it will continue to transform the rural landscape of India positively.”
At the same time, Jain believes it’s time for the youth to start looking at khadi as a fashionable and cool choice for their wardrobe. “The perception of most Indians is that khadi is a boring length of handspun cloth, which can be used only in sarees, dhotis or kurtas at best; however this is far from the truth. Khadi cotton and silk can be used for western, Indian, Indo-western and even couture silhouettes when used creatively by designers. Khadi can be fun, fashionable, hip and cool; appealing to every segment of the society,” she says. Thus, she feels that as Indians it’s our responsibility to create new avatars of the fabric and other handlooms.