Culture Trips

The story of India’s iconic freedom fabric

Debarun Mukherjee, a fashion designer based in Kolkata who has been working with khadi over the past 10 years, says: “What is needed is a new glamorous look and [designers] to think out of the box, and rescue the fabric from its staid, dull, worn-out stereotypical image. I dyed the fabric black in one of my collections and made evening wear from it with Indian silhouettes, from skirts and gowns to salwar suits, which was a sell out. I love the feel and fall of the fabric, and the fact that it’s sustainable, and I use it a lot in festive wear, embellished with traditional embroidery.”

Young designers like Priyanshi Jariwala, the founder of Khadi Cult, have brought khadi to the attention of millennials engaging with them through her Instagram account @the.k.cult. With quirky designs on the fabric, her brand weaves together contemporary and ethnic elements that appeal to a younger segment. From fun faces and hands to  Rubik’s cubes, her garments have a playful element.

Internationally too, the fabric has gained recognition and popularity. Many high-end Japanese designers are prepared to pay high prices for the fabric. Japanese avant-garde designer Issey Miyake took khadi to New York in an exhibition in 2019 called Khadi: Indian Craftsmanship at his flagship store.

Handspun khadi is nowhere near the Gandhian vision of clothing the millions in the country. Today it is more about sustainable luxury, supplied at a higher price to those who can afford it as a high-end fabric helping, and in the process preventing this centuries-old craft from dying.

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