How the Indian design industry ‘wove’ magic with handloom, a vision of Mahatma Gandhi
- Mahatma Gandhi envisioned handloom, primarily Khadi, as the fabric of the nation and the heritage of India
- From being seen as one of the most humble pieces of clothing, handwoven clothes have now made a jump from “farm to fashion”
- As we celebrate the birth anniversary of Bapu, a look at how his belief in handwoven textiles has translated into a fashion trendsetter
From saris to sexy cholis, pajamas to peplum tops and pantsuits, handloom has gone through a revolution with fashion and design brands, both in India and internationally, swearing by the sheer magic of this age-old fabric. Probably this is the reason why almost every second brand in the country has a handloom line.
“Handloom, if it has to stay, has to suit the needs of today’s youth. We see a future only if we see the younger generations taking to it. It will have to satisfy their needs of comfort, ease of wearing, easy maintenance and fashion sense,” Vijayalakshmi Nachiar, who runs a brand called 'Ethicus' along with her husband Mani Chinnaswamy, told Opoyi.
Calling themselves India's first 'farm to fashion' brand, this Pollachi (in Coimbatore) based brand grows their own organic Cotton and hand-weaves it.
“I am happy to see youngsters giving the sari a space in their wardrobe, making it their own by draping it differently, wearing shirts, t-shirts, shoes, and boots with it, doing away with the traditional 'starching' of the sari and even getting rid of the 'petticoat'. We need to move with the times and change our design (sic),” she added.
Aastha Ritu Garg, the founder of handloom brand Padmashali, says that every weave has its visual language and appeal which sets it apart from the rest.
“Yes, the way the handloom piece is now draped has changed or evolved over the years. For example, millennials are now draping an Ikat or bandhani dupatta over a corset or crop top or pant-suit, jumpsuits, etc,” Garg told Opoyi and added that what has changed now is the draping part and color palettes of the handloom.
“Of late, the Indian celebrities like Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma glamourised handloom by using it on their auspicious days like wedding receptions where Deepika wore a Kanjivaram and Anushka wore a Benarasi saree. A lot of young brides are also looking for the same and this has also forwarded the interest for our weavers,” she said.
According to a report by India Brand Equity Foundation, a trust established by the Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, The export of handloom products from India was valued at US$ 343.69 million in FY19. In FY20 (till November 2019), the export stood at US$ 226.05 million.
Indian fashion brand Asha Gautam, a name synonyms with handlooms and textiles of the country, works on a new line every season to suit the young customers while not missing the veterans’ clienteles.
“There has been innovation in textiles right from blending of yarns to changing of patterns and placement in designs and this has increased the usability of these textiles. In a lot of international runways, many handloom textiles are used with the only difference being their design,” Gautam told Opoyi.
He also says that one now sees handlooms in cocktail dresses, drapes, ruffles, layers, capes, skirts, quirky blouses, and they are even paired with statement pieces to give that modern-day avatar. Not to miss, geometric patterns, calligraphy, quirky motifs, color blocking, abstract artwork, and folk art motifs being used as motifs and patterns in handloom.
“I remember doing it for my fusion wear label –GG by Asha Gautam where I used a lot of Benarasi textiles for jackets, drape sarees, lehengas with peplum tops and the response is marvelous,” he said by adding that “If we work harder we can be the textile hub of the world which can be beneficiary to the lowest vertical of textiles i.e. weavers.”
Not only designers, but many brands are also looking at handlooms as the right investment.
Raghuvar Seth, Head of Marketing of brand Taneira- the handcrafted and hand-woven textile brand from the House of Titan Company Limited, says that “India has a long tradition in making high-quality handloom products with extraordinary skills and craftsmanship that is unrivaled globally.”
“It boasts of a rich heritage of diverse textiles, weaves, and crafts. Handloom has made a big comeback in India thanks to movements like ‘Make In India’ and ‘Go Vocal For Local’. The trend of weaving Indian handlooms and crafts into fashion has captured the fancy of a younger audience and runways alike,” he told Opoyi.
There is a need for brands to work towards modernizing the age-old fabrics to cater to the evolving demands of consumers today, he says.
“Younger audiences are preferring to use different kinds of handloom products in their daily lives like sarees, salwar kameez, stoles, blazers, handbags, wallets, footwear, home décor items, etc. There is an earnest appreciation for the handloom products across the age groups. Also, the fact that the fabric is natural, breathable and comfortable on skin further adds to its functionality,” he said.
Even Dusala, a Kashmir-based pashmina shawl brand, is also enjoying the new wave of handloom especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Change is the only constant which keeps us all going! I strongly feel with the World going digital more after the pandemic, the process of making the same designs will no longer appeal to the people. Emerging handloom pashmina trend is the introduction of Zari with Pashmina to make it look more trendy and occasion oriented,” said Shiva Kedia.
Added co-founder Sugandha, “ The Pashmina industry this year is working more on reversible shawls and stoles keeping in mind pandemic is driven by cash crunch.”
So this Gandhi Jayanti, add a piece of handloom to your closet.