Cotton, an otherwise cool and comfortable fabric, was considered passe when it came to making an evening fashion statement. But this is changing thanks to the efforts of the US-based Cotton Council International (CCI), which is educating the people about the versatility of this fabric.
"Indians have always believed that cotton is meant for summer season only. We want to change this myth and educate them about the fact that the fabric can be used in every season," CCI's senior manager for Greater Europe and South Asia Agnieszka Fijol told IANS in an interview.
"We are educating people by telling them that cotton is equally adaptable for evening wear. We want to demonstrate that cotton can be used in many ways," she added.
Designer Meera Ali of the Kotwara label agrees.
"Cotton is no more a day thing. It has become glamorous and colourful. Using bright colours with some embroidery or teaming long kurtas with cotton skirts can give your evening wear a different look," she said.
Talking about promoting cotton as evening wear, designer Leena of the Ashima-Leena duo said: "Designers are now experimenting a lot with this fabric because they have realised its importance. Most of us are trying to use this fabric and promote it as an evening wear. Basically it is all about the mindset. If you are confident, you can wear anything with elan."
As part of its initiative, CCI in 2003 launched its 'Cool with Cotton' campaign in India to demonstrate the versatility of cotton as a fibre for all occasions.
"Before we started this campaign, we realised the fact that there were many misconceptions associated with cotton in India, in spite of the fact that Indians are the largest consumers of cotton in the world because of the weather conditions," Fijol explained.
Elaborating "the "misconceptions", Fijol said many here believe that cotton is not at all user-friendly because it gets wrinkled very easily.
"But, then, technology exists to get over this problem," she said.
According to Fijol, CCI's decision to venture into India was based on the fact that the market share of cotton among all fabrics had come down from 80 percent to 60 percent despite the fact that India is the world's second largest producer of cotton.
"India is a very important market because it holds an important role in the demand and supply chain of the cotton industry," she added.
The CCI has now launched another initiative, 'Let's Design', a design-based reality show to unearth fresh designer talent in the country.
"This was a pan-India exercise to promote the use of cotton among Indians. If we have young designers making beautiful, comfortable and stylish dresses from cotton, it will help people to change the misconception about this fabric," Fijol maintained.
"We have got enormous response from all over India and I am glad to tell you that it has worked. We are now planning to make it a yearly campaign," she added.
The contest saw some 100 young designers participating in four regional rounds before the field was narrowed down to 12, with designers J.J. Valaya, Ritu Kumar and Rajesh Pratap Singh choosing the eventual winners, who included Shrivan Bhatia, named the best overall designer. His effort won him a trip to New York and a chance to rub shoulders with the creme-de-la-creme of the fashion fraternity.
Speaking about the event, Ritu Kumar said: "The contestants have reinforced the conviction that we all have in the ability and the talent of the designers. What is more important to note is that they would bring to the table an interpretation of their roots and cultural diversity.
"In a world where dress codes are uniformly prescribed and dominated with euro-centric design identity, this handwriting is very important to establish an Indian identity," she added.