Indian brands and designers are considering the environmental as well as social impact of textiles and clothing, focusing on going local – ‘glocal’ – by connecting to the handloom artisans in the interior villages to the global sustainable fashion industry…
We bring you an explanation of how Indian brands and designers considering environmental as well as social impact of textiles and clothing, focusing on going local – ‘glocal’ – by connecting to the handloom artisans in the interior villages to the global sustainable fashion industry.
‘Today’s greatest fashion luxury is found in things touched by human hands’
– Suzy Menkes
Abstract ‘slow fashion’ is a widely used term and current trending topic with synonyms such as sustainable fashion or ethical fashion or eco fashion. Today environmental sustainability has become a concern in the textile and fashion industry, as it is the second largest polluting industry. Fashion brands, designers, makers, retailers are being conscious about their creations, business models and involving practices with materials having less environmental effect, resource consumption, waste reduction and holistic approach to production. They are making different approaches to take the slow fashion movement forward by adapting design techniques / production methods to ensure zero waste, showing transparency and keeping the consumers informed, paying fair wages, collaborating with handloom artisans, running influencer campaigns etc. (Khandual, Pradhan, 2019)
India being one of richest countries in cultural heritage and traditional textiles, brands and designers are going back to the roots to work with the super skilled artisans to create sustainable textiles.
Indian brands and designers are considering the environmental as well as social impact of textiles and clothing, focusing on going local – ‘glocal’ – by connecting to the handloom artisans in the interior villages to the global sustainable fashion industry.
Slow fashion is a socially conscious movement that encourages slow production and consumption (Jung, Jin,
Historically, textile production used local resources that were sustainably harvested and processed. The handloom sector of India is the next big source of earning after agriculture, which has deep socio – cultural traditions. It’s an important part of the country’s economy. It has been sustained by transferring skills from one generation to another.
The handloom sector of India is the next big source of earning after agriculture, which has deep socio-cultural traditions.
Even though at present, the handloom industry is facing diverse issues, but brands and designers are gradually shifting to working with them. They are collaborating with artisans at grassroot levels for design intervention, promotion, and marketing linkage presenting to a global audience.
Creating with Soul
Designer Rahul Mishra, the winner of International Woolmark Prize 2014, has been working with handloom artisans and is proud of creating beautiful ensembles taking inspiration from age old rich traditions that have been passed on from generations to generations. He had debuted with his collection in collaboration with skilled craftsmen of Kerala handlooms and has always the idea, ‘let craft lead the way’.
The label Eka by designer Rina Singh’s reverence to Indian textiles and the diverse range of styles that vary from state to state is appreciable. Incorporating, Eka’s design sensitivities of minimal and functional clothing for the modern Indian woman incorporates the special technique of Jamdani from West Bengal, while borrowing the art of block printing and indigo dyeing from Gujarat. Her own philosophy of simple living and humble agricultural roots along with inspiration from culture, art and history, give Eka the minimalist yet highly efficient and ageless edge that makes it to be different. Rina Singh regularly travels all over the country to learn more about the rich culture that has influence in different dressing styles and includes them in her signature style resulting in clothes rooted in history, while staying modern, elegant and salient.
Designers Gaurav Jai Gupta and Gaurang Shah’s collections are usually neat, minimal and the pure beauty of textiles. This new narrative of Indian fashion straddles both modern design and age-old heritage and tells the story of a generation crafting a new identity for Indian fashion. Their creations are hand-woven by village craftsmen, rooted to local but speak a global language.
The label 11.11 has the idea to keep the link between the farmer, weaver, artisans, designers, and finally the consumer transparent. The globally known brand creates collections using Khadi in an edgy and revamped way.
Puducherry-based label Naushad Ali works with handloom weavers in West Bengal, weaving cluster in Tamil Nadu and block printers in Jodhpur with basic practice and minimal design philosophies. The label showcased at the International Fashion Showcase at London Fashion Week 2019 through IMG Reliance.
Mumbai-based label Runway Bicycle, that was started in 2013, has the passion to make art for everyday life. It closely works the weavers to make their own fabric and ensures that all their organic cotton fabric is certified by the Better Cotton Initiative and primarily uses natural dyes. The label strongly believes in the idea that better practices make better clothes; its collections are indeed wearable art. Their clothes are connected to roots woven by artisans; breathable, have firm fitting silhouettes and ease to move around.
The Indian designers are focusing more on traditional weaving techniques and trying to adapt to their design philosophies.
This new narrative of Indian fashion straddles both modern design and age-old heritage and tells the story of a generation crafting a new identity for Indian fashion.
Connecting With Artisans
Designer Anavila Misra with her label Anavila, gave the quintessential sari a minimalist makeover and proved that traditional Indian clothing is easy-to-wear. Her designs are characterised by simple durable linen, a free flowing pallu, and a feminine silhouette. The sarees serve functionality while reflecting sensuality. Her previous work experience with artisans for the Ministry of Rural Development gave her a lot of insights and she felt it was important to change the perception of saris in modern India. Born out of a desire to embrace the timeless garment in a more comfortable way, the label uses 120-count yarn to make flowing saris that feel light on your frame and are easy to carry. The linen used in her saris is a strong material and has a lot of character and fusing it with my aesthetic resulted in something unique. All the materials used are pure in the true sense. The label helps generate employment for women weavers in rural parts of the country and works with sustainable formats with all our artisans i.e. sustainable employment, sustainable clusters.
Anita Dongre’s Grassroot is a luxury sustainable brand that celebrates Indian weaves through contemporary clothing and launched its first international flagship store in the heart of New York’s fashion circuit with a store in
SoHo’s Broome Street. Dongre also shifts the focus on consumers to be conscious about sustainable choice by asking the brands about where the clothes come from and how they were made.
Artist and designer Payal Khandwala ‘s designs are uber chic and unparalleled. She works with handloom weavers to create amazing brocade, silk, linen textiles that are luxurious, look dramatic, light in weight and feel soft to touch. The label is known for a tad rebellious and non-conformist approach.
Craft Revival & Preservation
Delhi based label Raw Mango founded by Sanjay Garg has been key essential in revival of many Indian textiles such as Chanderi, Brocade, Mashru, Chikankari. The label offers a range of exquisite saris, ready- to-wear garments and objects created with handloom artisans and karigars across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Varanasi. The label has its root in craft and community and is preserving Indian heritage in true sense.
Designers Abraham & Thakore have been pioneering handlooms way before it became fashionable to be associated with them. For the designers, the handloom yarns run strong. Not just the brand, but the two men behind it, too, started their personal careers working with weavers, long before the label came into being. Their college projects were also on ikat and khadi.
Bhubaneswar based label ‘Rustic Hue’ has been working on revival of an age-old beautiful handloom saree named Bapta in Western Odisha. The beautiful ‘Patta-Bapta’ sarees are a unique combination of cotton and silk yarns with traditional temple borders (Phoda Kumbha) using 3-shuttle weaving and sambalpuri ikat aanchal. Two weavers communities make this particular saree, one is ‘Kosta’ (engaged 3-shuttle weaving technique) and the other is ‘Bhulia’ (engaged in preparing ikat (yarn tied and dyed) aanchal). The saree was almost at a dying stage as hardly two-three weavers families are left doing this regularly. The label spent a lot of time not only on research to revive this age-old saree with contemporary designs in terms of motifs and textures, but also to persuade the talented weavers to work on it regularly to bring it back in demand. Their Bapta sarees are mostly minimalistic and contemporary with unusual striking colour combinations compared to the old ones. The creative head Swikruti Pradhan presented a research paper titled ‘Sambalpuri Ikat Handloom: The Saga Beyond Culture and Tradition’ in 6th Global Fashion Conference 2018 at London College of Fashion, UK where she majorly spoke about the communities she is working with, the age old craft and our effort on revival on old crafts to preserve our heritage.
The label spent a lot of time not only on research to revive this age-old saree with contemporary designs in terms of motifs and textures, but also to persuade the talented weavers to work on it regularly to bring it back in demand.
There are some Indian fashion brands that are not only working towards providing beautiful, traditional and ethical fashion to its customers, but also working towards empowering women artisans. Here are these brands that are very self-aware, stick to their roots, and also provide a big platform for women artisans to display their work.
Mother Earth is a tasteful lifestyle brand offering Indian ethnic designs with great quality while caring for the environment and building on the strengths of marginalized rural communities. They work with over 20,000 women and more than 15,000 crochet artisans, and also self- help groups make 40 percent of the brand’s products.
The brand Krishna Mehta is a staunch supporter of the Manipuri designs and the Manipuri artisans and weavers. The brand provides opportunities to the differently-abled women by training them in specific skills like hand printing, dyeing, and embroidery.
Okhai, a brand created with the support of Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development, is helping tribal women in rural Gujarat empower themselves by creating beautiful traditional handiwork. Belonging mostly to the Kutch and Saurashtra regions of Gujarat, these artisans bring art to life at Okhai. The brand tries to translate the vivid cultural heritage into various types of apparel, accessories, and handicrafts, keeping up with current fashion. The idea is to give women from less privileged backgrounds an opportunity to acquire new skills and venture into the industry to earn on their own terms.
Glamour without guilt is becoming a trend for masses as well. Sustainability is becoming mainstream. Reliance Trends has launched their in-house brand, ‘Swadesh’, while Fab India has a big marketing campaign around handloom and western wear. Raymond is working on a khadi menswear line that will have high street pricing. GoCoop, the artisanal platform, has enabled the launch of The Good Loom, an affordable, sustainable label.
Indian traditional handloom or handicrafts play a vital role in shaping the economy, diversity, and culture of India. It’s a representative of the way of life. The potential of textiles in India is still under utilized. It requires commitment, travel to the villages to understand the weaves and intervention in the motifs. That raises a challenging set of questions but also incredible opportunities for Indian designers to distinguish themselves as global leaders.
Fashion is no longer just about trends and innovative design; it is also a means to encourage dialogue on sustainable choices. The value behind these principles is sustainability. As a country with one of the world’s largest handmade creative economies, artisans involved in creating textiles and handicrafts; designers have dedicatedly started working with them and creating with an evolved sense of aesthetics, contemporary collections with global appeal.
The government of India is consistently pursuing to bring about improvement in the productivity and marketing of handloom sector still it can be seen that weavers are facing severe livelihood crisis. Clothing and textile industries are serious about environment, society, and economics, which are associated with sustainability.
We need to conserve our resources, utilize the strength of young people and their skills, learn to respect artisans and move towards sustainable technologies and options. Myopic and short-term gains might seem lucrative now, but a foresighted approach will secure our future.
In current scenario, time will come that sustainability will not be consider as option, but it will become a necessity. As the global demand increases for sustainability and ethical products, handloom products can help local market as well as global market to get recognition.
Let us give local crafts a new language.