Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Haute Couture - Time for Khadi!

This post shall probably be a logical continuation of my previous one. It may appear far fetched for people to think of charkha today, and of coming up with the kind of Charkha that Gandhiji talked of, but hold's something to note!

I found this article on "Khadi Comeback" in the New Indian Express which goes something like this:

Khadi today is about revival. The khadi of old — the over-sized out-of-shape kurtas and jholas in the same old colours of sky blue, salmon pink, brown, sky blue, salmon pink, brown — is being nudged off the shelves by mini-skirts, jeans, dungarees, formal shirts, pants, woolens, and lehengas in every colour and size imaginable. Okay, kurtas too, only now they are made to size. Jholas too, only now you can carry them to a party.

With Italian designer Giorgio Armani and Indian designers such as Rohit Bal, Rakesh Thakore, Ritu Kumar, Ritu Beri, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Raghavendra Rathore, Rajesh Pratap Singh, and Manish Arora working on the fabric, khadi can now be worn anywhere, anytime. Even to that 9 am meeting.

Pin-striped suits in khadi? “I’ve already made them,” says Bangladeshi designer Bibi Russell. The designer, who works only with the cottage industries of various countries, literally teaching them the tricks of the trade, is right now in Jaipur putting together the suits and other clothes for an all-khadi fashion extravaganza in November, for national and international designers and buyers, spear-headed by Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia and choreographed by Prasad Bidapa.

Ironic isn’t it that khadi, which Mahatma Gandhi intended to be mass market, is increasingly becoming class market. It still provides employment to the poor, but is no longer the poor man’s fabric — some of the outfits created cost more than Rs 50,000.

“These ladies I am working with, in the villages of Rajasthan, they are creating magic with their spinning wheels,” says Russell. “And they don’t even realise it.”

Russell believes the charkah-spun khadi is the fabric of the future. “It’s a magic fabric. The same khadi fabric can make you feel cool in summer and warm in winter,” she says.

Which is why Manoj Chaturvedi, Chairman, Sarvodaya Ashram, who owns KhadiLine, a chain of exclusively khadi retail stores in India, is convinced his designers stores will be a hit, not just in the country, but all over the world. Chaturvedi says he is launching khadi burqas and kandooras in the Gulf next year. And vibrant printed garments for the South African market.

For years, Chaturvedi — a graduate from the London School of Economics — and his wife Neera were running the 54-year-old Sarvodaya Ashram in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, something which his father started. But it was only three years ago that he thought up the idea of retailing khadi. Not just the kurta-jhola type of khadi that the government-run stores stock, but casual, formal, semi-formal, Indian, indo-western and western wear. Fashionable khadi. “Over 400 styles.”

Says Chaturvedi: “Our attempt in promoting KhadiLine as a brand is primarily to preserve and propagate that element of delicacy of hand spun fabric as a culture, which was suffering from poor brand image.”

Money-wise, khadi is a fabric with huge potential, according to Chaturvedi. “If you take all the weavers in the entire SAARC region and make them work all day and night for years and years, they would still not be able to meet the demand of the market. That’s how ‘big’ khadi is.”

Chaturvedi also says that with the new interest world-over in everything eco-friendly, khadi fits the bill perfectly. And it’s for this reason that he has clients in the US and Europe both for fabric from Sarvodaya as well as clothes from KhadiLine.

Chaturvedi has eight KhadiLine showrooms in India. He plans to double that number in the next year. While also opening Khadi Lines in eight Tier II cities. His turnover, he knows, will more than quadruple in the next year. Chaturvedi is also opening KhadiLines in London, Dubai, Sharjah, and South Africa in 2007. Khadi clearly is going places. And we mean that literally — there is a proposal to make khadi uniforms for the air hostesses of Air India and Indian Airlines.


Anonymous Karan said...

wow! that ws so very interstin. even i've seen one of those khadiline showrooms.. nd its not very costly 2. starts frm abt 250 bucks i think.
the unfortunate thing is that its becomin a class market, which the mass can ill-afford

Thursday, October 05, 2006 7:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

stumbled thru here somehow ...

I find it quite amusing that the symbol of resistance and self-sufficiency, has morphed into an exotic fabric and is being re-discovered all over again.
From a political statement to a fashion statement, its been quite a turn-around.

I wonder if there are anymore examples of this kind. I can only think of Che Guevara's appropriation by popular culture as being one.

Thursday, October 05, 2006 7:58:00 AM  
Anonymous dark-knight said...

Isn't it intersting how some things turn out with time .khadi a political symbol uniting millions is a ' class symbol" and i don't even know what has happened is good or bad

Thursday, October 05, 2006 5:31:00 PM  
Anonymous abbulugadu said...

On a light hearted note ..would it be a good idea if mass scale Gandhigiri is promoted to make every one wear khadi :P

Friday, October 06, 2006 2:35:00 PM  
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