Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Khadi – Fabric for princes and paupers

Wikipedia describes Khadi as “Indian handspun and hand-woven cloth.” Traditionally the raw material used was cotton, though these days khadi is handspun with wool or silk as well, on a spinning wheel called a charkha.

Quality: Khâdî is a versatile fabric, cool in summers and warm in winters. Being a cruder form of material, it crumples much faster than other preparations of cotton. In order to improve the look, khâdî is often starched to have a stiffer shape. It is widely accepted in fashion circles these days.

History: Mahatma Gandhi began promoting the spinning of khâdî for rural self-employment in 1920s India. He also wanted to spread the message of not using foreign clothes. The freedom struggle revolved around the use of khâdî fabrics and the dumping of foreign-made clothes.

Revival of Khadi: But India's freedom fabric got stuck in a time warp and fell into bad days - as Indians embraced Lycra and polyester, khadi became something only politicians wore. A couple of years ago, a handful of fashion designers decided it was time to reinvent the spinning wheel and revive the magic of khadi. It was time for khadi couture.

Khadi fashion shows were held in five-star hotels, khadi boutiques were opened, and India's top designers were called in to make it hip. "Khadi can easily become what linen is to the world today," says Rohit Bal, 41, one of India's most talked-about designers, who sells his khadi line in his store, Balance, in New Delhi. "No other fabric in the world can boast of being spun and woven solely by human hands. It falls well and becomes second skin after two washes. It breathes, it has a self-texture. It represents the soul of India, but we can also have fun with khadi."
Now the Indian government is promoting the buzz, as more than 800,000 weavers in the countryside work on khadi, a cottage industry run with generous subsidies.

Khadi is back in fashion and here to stay!

by Chandana Banerjee

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