Fabric of freedom

A model sporting Deepika Govind's khadi attire   | Photo Credit: 15dmckhadi1

With Independence Day falling this Saturday, it is time to reflect on khadi. Its uniqueness can be measured in terms of its ability to express multilayered emotions like joy, exuberance, bravado and sacrifice. Importantly, this fabric gives us an independent national identity.

Wearing khadi means paying homage to craftsperson who spin the yarn on the charkha. Even in the machine-age, they work round-the-clock to produce the hand-spun fabric despite it being ignored by top designers. Introduced by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918 to make villagers self-reliant and producer of a better alternative to machine made imported fabric, khadi – symbolising freedom from the imperial yoke – speaks for itself.

Designers, who have been meticulously using khadi in their collections, either entirely or partially, give their take on how to take this fabric forward.

On this momentous occasion, Madhu Jain is presenting a collection where she is showcasing how khadi can be blended with bamboo, once considered primitive grasses. She was the one to first put the spotlight on bamboo as a viable fabric over a decade ago. “In the seventh edition of World Bamboo Congress I introduced bamboo fabric. The year was 2003 and I had done it with Milan Soman. It is an attractive alternative depending how you visualise it as a concept. So I am trying to showcase how we can blend khadi with bamboo. Then Textiles Minister Shahnawaz Hussain commissioned the project. Few know that India is the second largest producer of bamboo. Despite it being available in abundance in the North-East, we have not been able to popularise bamboo,” says Madhu, who has also blended bamboo with chanderi.

Highlighting khadi’s utility, she describes it as a versatile fabric which is easy to blend with any other fabric. “It is a weaving process where khadi thread is amalgamated with bamboo fibre.”

To make khadi visually appealing, Madhu asked artists to make paintings of the famous Guruvayur temple of Kerala. “I have changed mythological characters and intertwined this ancient temple with our mythological epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. Khadi with tussar will also be on display. The idea behind all this is that I am proud to be using this fabric of freedom.”

Khadi always finds a place in Deepika Govind’s collection because it is organic and has raw rustic look. “As it is stylish with a cutting edge, the silhouettes transform khadi. Khadi should not be burdened with embroidery. It has a character and must go with the character. Like my Kutch mirror work on khadi matches with the fabric’s coarseness.”

For Independence Day, Deepika feels khadi with modan, a modern fabric, is perfect to wear. “Eco-friendly modan is obtained from the bark of a tree. It makes khadi easier to drape and softer. It changes the character; coarseness can be retained. Khadi is so specific to our cottage industry and it is advantageous for agriculturists. During famine and floods it helps them to survive.”

Another advantage using khadi is that it is recommended by the government for its authenticity. “Unlike handloom, khadi is given certification by the government because it is hand-spun. All designers need to proudly wear khadi and use them in their collections.”

For Delhi University students, Deepika has also prepared khadi with denim. It is a difficult process as khadi has to be weaved with heavy denims. “We need technology to make it more stylish and modern.”

For Neeru Kumar, who began her career as a designer two decades ago, khadi has been a regular feature in every collection of hers. “It has been a constant ever since I embarked on a career of designing. Design is construction and if the fabric is good then simplest of silhouette looks appealing. I do a lot of innovations on yarn in different colours.”

But labour for this kind of job is increasingly getting difficult.

“During the inception I was able to get craftsperson who were specialising in hand spinning and hand weaving. We get this fabric made in some villages of West Bengal where this is surviving. Khadi is also available in certain pockets of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. We continue to be the biggest manufacturer of khadi. Every State has its own interpretation.”

Since the fabric itself is uniqueness, Neeru did not think it pertinent to seek inspiration from a fortress or a place of worship.

“Colour, textures of khadi are such that it becomes an inspirational fabric. It is not decorative but basic fabric which breathes. It can be worn in any climatic conditions.”

Right now, she is concentrating on obtaining the purest form of khadi. “I am concentrating on the functional aspect. Functionality is important in khadi. My work is miles different from what is sold at outlets. It becomes a defunct fabric once you start putting a discount on khadi.”

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 2:36:25 PM |

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