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Natural colours back in vogue

The craze for anything organic and natural has given a new boost to the Indian textile industry's kaleidoscopic colours.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2007 14:09 IST

After Khadi it is natural colours that are in vogue. The craze for anything organic and natural has captured the imagination of the wearers as well as clothiers. They not only prefer to use natural fabrics but also natural dyes to bring kaleidoscopic colours that the famed Indian textile is so famous for.

Natural dyes, traditionally used by artisans in the country which had lost ground to cheap and synthetic dyes are regaining popularity and their use in natural fabrics like silk, cotton and jute is catching up.

"Natural dyes have gained a good market in the last decade. I have been in this business for the last forty years and can say that business is not bad, it is quite good now. Especially in the last 2-3 years the demand has picked up," says U Suryanarayana, who owns a small natural dye cottage industry employing 40-50 workers in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh.

The government has also helped in promoting the natural vegetable dyes and it is very much due to its efforts that public is becoming aware of the benefits of natural dyes, he says. <b1>

"We only keep things which are soothing and harmless for the skin. Therefore in all the clothes sold in Khadi Gramodyog natural fabrics and dyes are used," says Subash Chand of Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan, Delhi.

The market for natural dyes is slowly expanding from only traditional handloom textile makers to government organisations to fashion designers.

Designer Sunaina Suneja has worked with natural fabrics and clothes, says, "I was inspired to work on indigo dye when I went to Champaran last year, on seeing the remains of an indigo factory stained factory," adds she was inspired by the independence movement to use indigo in her collection. Indigo is a natural dye, which has a distinctive blue colour. It is mostly used to colour jeans now.

But Sunaina has managed to give the fabrics an indo-western look and crafted salwars, skirts, stoles chunnis. She has used various shades of indigo on fabrics like indigo-dyed khadi, cotton, chiffon, silk, kota, tassar. The clothes have been dyed in various patterns like block prints, shibori, bandhini, hand embroidery ,ajrakh work from Rajasthan among others.

What is a hindrance to its popularity is that most people do not realise what they are wearing have synthetic colours. "Very few of them particularly ask for natural dyed clothes. Some ask many don't. Foreigners ask for clothes coloured with natural dye," says Chand. Suryanarayana, also agrees that natural dyes are more popular in the South and the demand is less in the northern region of the country.

He says "the state government in Andhra Pradesh and Chennai are aggressively promoting the natural dyes and this has done much for its revival. While when I go to Delhi the awareness is low." "Though natural dye is popular with Indians they do not realise that the colour they are buying or wearing is indigo dye", she rues. "The word indigo does not seem to ring a bell to people. "

She adds that the natural fabrics have a popular fan base but the buyers are niche and ethnic wear today is threatened by cheap synthetic fabrics like Chinese clothes that have spread in the market. "Though we can never compete with the synthetic dye industry but things are surely looking up".

"Yet the major problem that we face is that of cash constraints.Government organistions that are our prime buyers make a great delay in payments , for example the payment that should be done in 15 days takes almost a year in these organistions," laments Suryanarayana.