Khadi: The future fabric of India borrowed from the past

Updated on Oct 03, 2022 06:32 PM IST

As Gandhi Jayanti went by, we explore how this humble fabric created history and is still spinning the wheel in Indian fashion

Vidya Balan is often spotted wearing khadi attires (Photo: instagram)
Vidya Balan is often spotted wearing khadi attires (Photo: instagram)
ByShweta Sunny

As Gandhi Jayanti went by, we explore how this humble fabric created history and is still spinning the wheel in Indian fashion

Part of the exquisite and ancient textile tradition of India, khadi is a handspun and hand-woven material usually made from cotton yarn. Khadi is made using spinning wheels to turn fibre into yarn, then weave the yarn into fabric using looms.

During India’s freedom struggle, khadi represented self-employment and self-reliance for Indians. Fashion designer Rina Dhaka says, “Khadi as a fabric has great merits, other than the fact that it is the symbol of our independence. The women threw away all their riches in favour of the khadi cloth.”

A model dons a khadi lehenga
A model dons a khadi lehenga

It is known as a “versatile fabric and has an unusual quality of being warm in winters and cool in summers”, says Dhaka, adding, “The cloth is spun in such a way that it softens and looks better after every wash. This can save people a lot of money. Khadi also has zero wastage and is low on water consumption.”

After the Swadeshi movement, khadi was pushed to the back burner as diverse blend fabrics took precedence in the front row. Traditionally, it is perceived as a dull, white cloth, but khadi has a lot to offer nowadays and is available in a range of colours.

A model walks the ramp in a khadi dress
A model walks the ramp in a khadi dress

In addition to its fashion appeal, khadi’s production promotes the culture of sustainability in fashion, making it a fabric, and the subsequent clothes that are made from it, good for the environment. “Khadi has become a symbol of sustainability, eco-friendly and at the same time, it has a high fashion quotient. The credit of its recognition goes to the government, as well as, to the designers, who are making wonderful designs out of khadi. The best mix with a handloom fabric like khadi is handloom cotton only,” shares fashion designer Anju Modi.

Vidya Balan in a khadi dress and long jacket
Vidya Balan in a khadi dress and long jacket

Once the stereotypical attire of sombre politicians, khadi has now taken on a stylish narrative with many Indian fashion houses, taking up the mantle of creating clothes in this material. It is also frequently spotted at pop-up shops by up and coming designers as well as on the runaways across the country and the globe. Even Bollywood celebrities like actors Vidya Balan, Dia Mirza Rekhi, Karisma Kapoor, among others have been embracing the beauty of this humble fabric.

The Gandhi connect

By the late 17th century, Indian fabrics had gained popularity and was dominating the European markets. The French and British decided to outlaw it to lessen the competition for their own machine-made clothing. Reviving pride in Indian textiles, freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi urged Indians to forego wearing British fabrics in favour of khadi to help India’s rural economy.

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