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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 27, 30 September - 06 October 2023


Khadi in Contemporary Couture Weaving Tradition into Modern Fashion


Dr. Janmay Singh Hada

The Khadi movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918 as a symbol of India's quest for freedom and economic self-sufficiency, has now seamlessly integrated itself into India's and even the global fashion landscape. Evolving from its historical roots in ancient craft traditions, Khadi represents a contemporary embodiment of Gandhi's call for self-sufficiency, aligning perfectly with the "Make in India" initiative, thus promoting local empowerment. This exceptional fabric encapsulates values such as self-reliance, sustainability, and resilience, earning it the title of "fabric of the nation." Khadi's rich history serves as a living testament to India's enduring ideals, interwoven into its cultural narrative. Just as Mahatma Gandhi harnessed its potential during the struggle for independence, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has also embraced Khadi as a symbol of his vision for self-reliance and empowerment in modern India.

Sustainable Fashion and Conscious Consumption: Khadi is not just a piece of fabric; it embodies aspirations for economic growth, social progress, and sustainable development. Hence, the India has been steadfast in its efforts to preserving this heritage while propelling modern advancement. Khadi spinning and weaving is by and large a non-polluting process as compared to mechanised textile production. Khadi's eco-friendly attributes align with the emphasis on environmental stewardship. The fabric's low carbon footprint echoes the advocacy for renewable energy and ecological preservation, underscoring a greener future for the nation. Hence, the global trend towards sustainable fashion has brought Khadi to the forefront as environmentally conscious consumers seek alternatives to fast fashion.

The Khadi Renaissance: In 1921, the establishment of the first Khadi production center in Kathiawad, Gujarat, marked the inception of a rich and enduring history that persists to this day.

Following India's independence, the Khadi Village Industry Commission (KVIC) Act of 1956 was enacted with the over-arching objective of strategically planning, fostering, coordinating, and supporting the development of Khadi and village-based industries in rural regions, in conjunction with other industrial sectors. Operating as a statutory entity under the purview of the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises, the KVIC assumes a pivotal role in advancing initiatives to promote Khadi.

In recent years, the realm of Indian fashion has undergone a remarkable transformation. Khadi, once steeped in tradition, has experienced a resurgence in popularity, gracing fashion runways, art exhibitions, and the wardrobes of environmentally conscious consumers. Notably, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has entered into agreements with some of India's largest textile mills to facilitate the global trade of Khadi products. Extensive research and development endeavors have also been dedicated to blending Khadi with contemporary fabrics, resulting in innovative solutions for modern clothing and fashion.

Khadi in Contemporary Fashion : What distinguishes the Khadi resurgence is its seamless integration into contemporary design aesthetics. Fashion houses and designers are in the midst of experimental forays, infusing Khadi with a modern twist while preserving its intrinsic authenticity. One notable illustration of this phenomenon is Khadi denim, a hybrid fabric that has left a substantial mark on the global clothing industry. Khadi denim blends the ruggedness of denim with the comfort and texture of Khadi, resulting in a distinctive fusion of tradition and trendiness. This amalgamation of the old and the new resonates with consumers seeking distinctive and meaningful fashion choices. At present, fashion houses and renowned designers are enthusiastically delving into numerous such creative possibilities on a global scale.

The evolution of Khadi from a symbol of rebellion to a fabric embraced by modern designers and business establishments is striking. Renowned textile brands have partnered with artisan clusters to curate exclusive Khadi collections. The KVIC Act empowers these collaborations by facilitating the promotion, marketing, and sale of Khadi, rural industries, and local handicrafts, as well as establishing connections with established market agencies.

This trend extends beyond mainstream brands, as luxury designers intentionally incorporate Khadi into their creations to infuse a modern edge into their designs flaunting the fabric's eco-friendly attributes, subtle texture, and impressive dye retention. There are many top fashion designers who masterfully utilise Khadi, often referred to as the "fabric of the poor," to craft bridal ensembles exuding a regal elegance suitable for royalty.

The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) actively collaborates with KVIC to introduce design interventions that incorporate Khadi into modern fashion. These collaborations serve to raise awareness about Khadi's cultural and environmental significance among the fashion community driving the importance to adopting sustainable practices. These innovative ventures are reigniting people's affection for Khadi, forming a dynamic movement that blends tradition with a modern ethos.

Ensuring Authenticity : Khadi, derived from the Sanskrit word 'Khadira,' denoting cloth crafted from hand-spun yarn, encapsulates the essence of natural fabrics fashioned through hand-spinning and hand-weaving techniques, utilising materials such as cotton, silk, jute, wool, or their blends, all of which must originate within India. It encompasses the entire traditional process, including spinning, weaving, and finishing. Beyond its comfort, providing cooling relief in summer and warmth in winter, Khadi boasts an environmentally friendly nature. To safeguard the authenticity of Khadi products, stringent measures have been implemented. The Khadi Mark, affixed to handwoven, handspun Khadi and its products in accordance with the Khadi Mark Regulation of 2013 under the KVIC Act, is a hallmark of genuineness and quality assurance. The Central Certification Committee (CCC) plays a pivotal role in verifying the authenticity of Khadi products.

From Tradition to Economic Powerhouse : The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has achieved unprecedented milestones, surpassing the turnover of even the best FMCG companies in India. In the fiscal year 2022-23, KVIC recorded an impressive turnover of Rs. 1.34 lakh crore, a remarkable leap from Rs. 31,154 crores in 2013-14. A staggering 332% growth in the sale of indigenous Khadi products has been witnessed between 2013-14 and 2022-23. Among these, Khadi fabrics have particularly excelled, with production soaring from Rs. 811 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 2,916 crore in 2022-23, representing a remarkable 260% growth. Sales of Khadi clothing have surged by 450%, rising from Rs 1,081.04 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 5,942.93 crore in 2022-23. The artisans associated with the Khadi sector have significantly benefited from this surge in production and sales, witnessing a more than 150% increase in their remuneration since 2013-14.

Financial assistance, modernisation of infrastructure such as charkhas and looms, digitisation, and the development of new technology and designs through research and development (R&D) have all contributed significantly to the growth of Khadi and Village Industries products. In 2021, KVIC unveiled eKhadiIndia.com, a unique government online platform featuring over 50,000 products aimed at strengthening the rural economy and promoting self-sustainability. The 'Vocal for Local' campaign has catapulted Khadi to new heights of popularity both domestically and abroad.

In recent years, KVIC has focused on creating sustainable employment for artisans and unemployed youth, achieving significant milestones. In 2022-23, KVIC created 9.5 lakh jobs in rural areas, compared to 5.6 lakh jobs in 2013-14. KVIC also conducts Skill Develop-ment Programmes (SDP) and Entrepren-eurship Awareness Programmes (EAP) across the country to generate self-employment opportunities in traditional industries for unemployed youth.

Conclusion: As Khadi weaves itself into contem-porary fashion, it honors tradition while empowering artisans, fostering economic sustainability, and aligning with India's self-reliance goals. This revival envisions harmony between tradition and modernity, celebrating heritage while propelling progress.

The Khadi industry represents more than India's struggle for independence and cultural heritage; it plays a pivotal role in driving economic progress, promoting employment, and nurturing sustainable development. Through its support of Khadi, India reaps a range of social, economic, and environmental benefits, contributing to the nation's overall advancement. Khadi's revival within India's fashion landscape exemplifies the seamless interplay of tradition and modernity. Formerly a symbol of defiance and self-sufficiency, it now embodies sustainability and conscious consum-ption. Its presence in contemporary fashion underscores its adaptability and relevance, reminding us of the enduring influence of heritage, craftsmanship, and conscious fashion choices in shaping the evolving fashion narrative.

The author is Assistant Professor & Project-In-Charge, Textile Design Department, National Institute of Fashion Technology, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. You can send us your feedback to this article on feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com

Views expressed are personal.