Freedom@70: How Khadi is getting a new spin
KVIC has signed a memorandum with the National Institute of Fashion Technology for design development and training at different khadi institutions.
The saree search narrowed down to four choices, which she put to an online vote; Carlson also bought lengths of khadi fabric — the fabric associated with the Indian freedom movement — to have blouses and jackets made. “Khadi also reflects the beauty and diversity of India. There are different patterns and styles associated with each region, which is one of the reasons it has been so hard to choose,” Carlson later told ET Magazine.
That would be music to the ears of Vinai Kumar Saxena, chairman of KVIC, which has been at the helm of transforming the khadi brand from a rough and rustic cotton fabric to an all handspun and handwoven one made of natural fibre. “Now Brand Khadi includes the best cottons, silks and woollen fabrics from India and we are seeing the youth in the country being attracted to it in a big way. PM Narendra Modi is its biggest brand ambassador,” Saxena told ET Magazine.
KVIC has signed a memorandum with the National Institute of Fashion Technology for design development and training at different khadi institutions. It has global plans, too. “We are planning khadi outlets under a franchisee model in Dubai, the US, Mauritius and South Africa,” Saxena added.
Khadi in Bengal
The revival and rejuvenation of Brand Khadi has found echoes in West Bengal with Project Muslin, launched in July 2015 by the state government’s department of micro, small and medium enterprises and textiles. Muslin, an uber-fine cotton yarn, was a prominent industry in Bengal suppressed by the colonial British rule. Even now, Bengal produces 55% of the muslin fabric made in India.
“Muslin is helping redefine the perception about khadi as rough and coarse fabric only to be used for dhotis and sarees. We have launched retail outlets under the Club Muslin brand and have roped in local designers to launch trendy garments,” says Mrityunjoy Bandyopadhyay, CEO, West Bengal Khadi & Village Industries Board. The organisation is also promoting textile tourism in the muslin centres of Murshidabad, Birbhum, Nadia, Bardhaman, Malda, Hooghly and Paschim Medinipur.
Project Muslin is aimed at wooing back some of the traditionally skilled artisans who left the handloom sector and sought employment in less-skilled sectors. “The number of skilled muslin weavers had dropped to less than 100, while the total number of people employed in muslin production had fallen below 3,000. Through our efforts over the last few years we have seen not just the traditionally skilled artisans — many of whom are women — coming back, but new ones joining the sector too,” says Bandyopadhyay. He estimates the numbers at 500 and 7,500 at present.
Tapasi Ghosh is a spinner in the muslin sector for over a decade. She had won a national award for spinning and can spin the legendary 500 count muslin; this means that 1,000 metres of yarn spun by her weighs only 2 grams. “We are 32 women spinners and 10 weavers at our centre.
We produce the finest yarn between 200 and 600 count. Most of us work for around eight hours a day and earn about Rs 5,000 per month along with market development bonus and other benefits,” says Ghosh.
Sujata Ghosal, who runs a non-governmental organisation Sokhia for the revival of handicrafts in Bengal, reckons textile tourism can provide a global platform for spinners like Ghosh. “Tourists from Australia, the UK and America are enthusiastic about visiting the centres and even experiencing the way fabric is spun and woven. The WB government’s plan to open retail outlets in the villages near the muslin hubs will provide spinners and weavers direct access to customers from across India and the world,” says Ghosal.
Fashion designer and entrepreneur Sanjay Garg, the founder of the prominent Raw Mango brand, works with traditional weavers across India. “The Khadi brand has the potential to become as big as yoga and India should take it to the world.”
Garg is working with handcrafted chikankari embroidery on Bengal mulmul — a muslin variant from Murshidabad — zardozi and handwoven brocade, for his new collection Cloud People, which will be showcased on August 16 at the Lakme Fashion Week.