The first true Indian designer was Mahatma Gandhi when he urged the people of India to wear khadi garments. The British would buy cotton from India at cheap prices and export them to Britain where they were woven to make clothes. These clothes were then brought back to India to be sold at hefty prices. The khadi movement aimed at boycotting foreign goods including cotton and promoting Indian goods, thereby improving India’s economy. It was not only a call to create self reliance but a call to wear something that could prove the unity of India. Khadi is a term used for hand spun and hand woven fabric from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, primarily made of cotton.
Khadi over the decades has moved from a freedom fighter’s identity fabric to a fashion garment. Today’s Khadi has many faces which are not just restricted to cotton. The precise technology involved in the production of Khadi varies from region to region, as do the techniques used for its decoration (dyeing, embroidery, printing etc). Today there is such an increasing demand for Khadi that despite the millions of workers all over the country involved in spinning it, they are unable to meet the demand from the market. Yet it is this handmade quality of the fabric with its inherent defects that is the beauty of Khadi. And that exclusivity is what the Khadi connoisseur craves at all times. Khadi is not just a sound economic proposition but also a science and a romance. The world is becoming more ecologically and ethically aware. Reducing our carbon footprint by using low energy alternatives is the mantra. Khadi represents a spiritual and a sustainable way of life.
Recently I had a chance to travel in the interiors of India, largely Kutch. It was an emotional experience to see Charkha and Khadi as the heart and soul of the nation. The recent times has seen a drastic shift in the way we perceive Khadi. Slowly, this very material which was a symbol of Swadeshi is becoming so hip and trendy that designers like Pero by Aneeth Arora and Gaurav Jai Gupta leave no stone unturned to work with the material. As I sit and write this article voicing thoughts of a true Khadi connoisseur, I also wish that we Indians start respecting what our heritage is and the value associated with it.
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