From Parliament to parties

Image Idea: The Hindu

Reposted from: The Hindu

Khadi comes into its own, with contemporary cuts, experiments in the board room, and even some ‘disobedience’ thrown in

It is ironic when a product’s selling point also becomes its disadvantage. Khadi suffered this — promoted for its ideology, as the ‘fabric of the nation’, rather than for its texture, beauty or comfort. Today, as designers like Rajesh Pratap Singh and Rohit Bal revisit the fabric, giving it a contemporary update, the handloom is getting a glamorous makeover. The latest to join the bandwagon is Raymond, which is taking the swadeshi symbol into the boardroom.

Set to launch in October, their all-new collection, Khadi by Raymond — created in collaboration with the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) — will feature the complete men’s wardrobe, including trousers, shirts and jackets. For a touch of the ceremonial, there are bandhgalas, kurtas, sherwanisand a line of Indo-Western outfits. Ram Bhatnagar, vice president and head (sales and distribution), explains that the Raymond Design Studio is working on a number of styles in contemporary silhouettes. “We are working with artisans in Rajasthan to develop finer counts of wool blends, and are also looking at creating khadi blends with cashmere and silk,” he says, adding that they work with over 50 khadi clusters across the country.

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Relaxed fits

This renewed attention on khadi has reaped dividends. According to a KVIC report, sales went up by 33%, and khadi and village industries crossed the ₹50,000 crore mark for the first time in 2016. One of the designers who has contributed to this is Ritu Beri, who was appointed as the commission’s khadi advisor last year, and whose 2016 line, Vichar Vastra, explored the natural fabric as luxury wear. Earlier this month, she tried to break the monotony of traditional cuts with her designs for the staff at the Taj Goa resorts. “For me, Goa and rigid uniforms don’t go well together. The collection sports simple separates and oversized styles for a relaxed silhouette that brings comfort,” she says. Emphasising that, in the last few years, there has been significant growth in the production, sales and employment in the khadi sector because of the fabric’s eco-friendly properties, she adds, “Khadi has zero carbon footprint: the ‘air conditioned’ material keeps you warm in winters, and its porous nature keeps you cool in summers”.

Chintan Oza, curator of two leading organisations in Gujarat, Handcrafted in India and Gujarat Fashion Designers’ Team (GFDT), has been working with the indigenous fabric for years, and is all for giving khadi a fashionable twist, provided it is promoted as a fabric for the masses. “A number of designers across the country are looking at new ways to incorporate khadi in their designs: not just in clothes, but shoes and accessories too. GFDT is creating khadi outfits that can be worn in different ways, and will be part of our upcoming shows in October,” says Oza, who promotes upcoming fashion designers and start-ups, and is always looking at new experiments with the fabric.

Affordable luxury

As handloom gains in popularity, designers are looking at newer ways to add glamour to the hand-spun material. Like Abraham & Thakore’s gold laminated khadi blouse and sari, which were launched at Amazon India Fashion Week, Spring-Summer 2017, last October. Designer David Abraham, who is working on a khadi evening wear collection for the upcoming Rajasthan Heritage Week, says, “We are trying to add fun and glamour to a fabric that is otherwise associated with nationalism. It’s not just for the Parliament, but for parties too!”

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Many, like Himanshu Shani of fashion label 11:11 — who has been working directly with craftsmen to create khadi-denim — believe that creating khadi outfits for everyday use is the way forward. “Khadi is all about ‘making in meditation’. It’s not about competing with the industry, but about nurturing the love of doing things by hand, and making the process interesting for the artist and the maker,” shares Shani, who has created over a 100 different products, from apparel to accessories, across price points. While he is aware that cost is a big factor in the Indian market, he says that to compete with fast fashion, creating the concept of ‘affordable luxury’ is important.

Be disobedient

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At the recent Lakme Fashion Week, social enterprise Matr showcased their latest khadi line comprising dresses, tank tops and shirts, in collaboration with New York-based designer Kopal and Australian label, Because of Nature. “While the two labels share similar design sensibilities, Kopal is bold and uses more checks and Because of Nature plays with 100% natural dyes in simple patterns. Everything in the collection is locally sourced, benefiting each player — from the farmer and weaver to the yarn maker,” says Praveen Chauhan, CEO and founder.

LFW also saw Ujjawal Dubey’s Antar-Agni’s Fall Winter collection, with sharp cuts and will-fitted khadi jackets, and layers of sheen and jersey fabric. The designer, who was recently nominated for The International Woolmark Prize, says, “We wanted to present Eastern inclined classics with a global appeal. The feel was slightly disobedient — disobedience towards the traditional cuts and making of menswear and womenswear, merging rough texture and sheen, structure with flow, straight with crooked, light with heavy.” As khadi comes into its own and the experiments promise to continue, it would be safe to say we are yet to see the best of this home-grown fabric.

The article was first published in The Hindu

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