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Khadi revival is not witnessed as a ‘current’ revolution in India. In fact, as cyclical as fashion is, it isn’t a wonder that khadi regained status and turned a political statement-making cloth to a sartorial one. A handspun fabric mostly woven out of cotton (at times even from silk or wool), khadi has seamlessly made it to young India’s fashion scene, and has now acquired a space in the millennial wardrobe. In fact, khadi is now branded for the urban chic, those with a contemporary and Indian style nuance.
If statistics are to go by, according to Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), khadi has increased its fabric production by 38.30 million sq metres, registering 37.1 per cent growth, in the last four years. These are definitely soaring numbers for a fabric once branded ‘just desi’. In fact, it is this remarkable growth that has given KVIC reason to plan global stores in Paris and Dubai.
Among the many reasons that have helped khadi retrieve popularity, comfort is the major factor. Ramya Iyer, 34, a long-time user of khadi, says, “Khadi is a summer-friendly fabric, and has an extremely sophisticated look and feel.” The fabric is not just soft and easy on the skin; it also works best in the most humid climes, like ours in India.
Another lover of the fabric, Bushra S Khan, 31, reiterates, “First of all, I love wearing cotton as I live in a humid city [Mumbai], and I think cotton, especially khadi, is the best fabric to wear when you’re witnessing the coastal weather in India.”
More than just comfort
Of course the comfort factor is of primary importance when it comes to choosing khadi. But there are many other aspects people look to when it comes to using this fabric for their attire. Khan adds, “As far as khadi is concerned, I love its understated elegance.
Sometimes, dark or bright colours can be quite an eyesore, especially during summer. Khadi comes in hues that are extremely soothing to the eyes. Also, it is quite an easy fabric to work with, and has variety. The fabric has come a long way from what it used to be; it is soft, and moulds itself according to the body.”
Khadi, which was once a coarse fabric, has way too many variations when it comes to the weaves. We asked designer Resham Karmchandani, co-founder of The Pot Plant, a brand that uses khadi for its contemporary, gen-next pieces, to shed some light on the fabric. She states, “As far as the fabric goes, khadi has various beautiful weaves and is also extremely comfortable as a fabric. People eventually end up buying khadi a lot more as it is trans-seasonal, and offers value for money.”
Another specific reason why khadi is a favourite among youngsters is the luxe feel the fabric offers. A stylist by profession, Sheena Chandwani, 25, agrees, “Not only is khadi easy to wear, as a fabric it looks very upscale. Khadi has a premium feel to it. And from a styling perspective, it can be moulded in many ways depending on one’s persona.”
While it is a luxurious-looking fabric, does the weaver get enough given it is handspun? Designer Rina Singh, founder of Eka mentions, “Khadi is a handspun and handwoven fabric.
Given it is made by a weaver by hand, the price for it should definitely go up, and it should be treated as a luxurious item. As it uses one of the most primitive methods of fabric-making, the novelty factor should go up. In fact, I think the ambar charkha way should also qualify as khadi.”
‘Made In India’ novelty
Influence of a young breed of designers who are working with this hand-spun fabric is also why millennials have given a sartorial nudge to it. Karmchandani states, “I think it all started with the sustainable movement gaining momentum in the country.
Most designers are now keeping in mind the younger generation while designing pieces, and that’s why millennials are more receptive to the fabric. Also, now there’s an entire younger crop of designers who are working with natural fabrics.”
When it comes to the resurgence of khadi, the Internet, especially social media, has definitely served as a medium for its traction. In fact, it is one of the many reasons responsible for making khadi a trusted fabric among the millennials. Karmchandani states, “Everybody’s talking about the use of khadi through social media, and there is a lot more awareness about it now.”
Does the allure of desi and the spike in the acclaim of ‘homegrown’ have anything to do with how welcoming the young crowd is when it comes to this fabric? Iyer adds, “Yes, the fact that it comes with the ‘Made In India’ tag helps.”
Given the language of design and culture is so important for this generation, khadi has an added advantage. Singh states, “Design is a very intrinsic part of our society. As far as urban millennials go, they are aware of what is going on. That said, designers have played a big role in khadi’s popularity with some of us having handheld the craft no matter what the season. The language of design is presented glamorously, and Bollywood has taken it up too, thus it has become a cult movement. Millennials are connected on Instagram and it is a need for them to have their own identity and individuality. What one wears is an important point to make on social media. Clothing is an identity issue for youngsters. There’s nothing better than a homegrown fabric like khadi to define the Indian millennial.”
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