NEW DELHI — Khadi will always remain iconic in India and the fabric served as the hub of last month’s FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week, with its translation onto the runway putting sustainability, creativity and a sense of nationalism center stage.
The focus also opened up the potential for the fabric internationally, with French designer Mossi Traoré showing his vision of khadi in different versions in blends of cotton, wool and silk.
“It is a cliché to call it a freedom fabric,” Sunil Sethi, chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India, told WWD. “The rest of the world may not understand that this is a fabric of freedom, or about Mahatma Gandhi. But they certainly will understand its sustainability, handwoven, handmade strengths and, most of all, its versatility. There are now khadi accessories so you can have khadi shoes, khadi in many variations and combinations.”
Sethi referred to the fact that Gandhi had encouraged every Indian to weave their own khadi during the country’s freedom struggle, culminating in independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Describing Mossi’s love for India, and his interest in the market, he said, ”Khadi works with designers who are minimalists. It is the first time that an international designer who has worked on it is taking part in a fashion week.”
Jaspreet Chandok, head of Rise Fashion and Lifestyle, joint organizers of the event, pointed out that khadi was an important part of the way the fashion week had been shifting.
“Earlier, sustainability was for a certain type of designer. Now it much more seamlessly integrates and you have all sorts of designers who might not be completely sustainable in their ethos but want to experiment with sustainable fibers coming in. The intent is for the sustainability narrative at our end to start having global conversations. That is something that we will work toward as the world opens up more,” he said.
Rise Worldwide is a part of Reliance Ltd., which acquired the IMG stake in Lakme Fashion Week in 2019.
Mossi was an ideal choice for the global conversation given his knowledge of Bollywood, understanding of Indian culture and the choice of fabric — on an earlier trip to India he went shopping for a khadi kurta to wear to a wedding in Paris. “Nobody other than me had such an outfit,” he told WWD.
His khadi collection had his own skirmishes with fate — the fabric shipped to Paris in January for his show was lost, and the replacement fabric reached him just in time to get the collection going.
“When I was a student I was always dreaming about India; I researched Rohit Bal, Ritu Beri, Narendra Kumar. I was inspired by John Galliano, but I was very focused on Indian designers’ work. Today, fashion is a global market. With the internet, you can reach people in different countries, with China, India — today fashion is more open,” Mossi said.
The khadi show on the second day of fashion week brought out the fabric’s versatility. While the first segment belonged to Mossi, the second part featured five Indian designers — Abhishek Gupta, Anavila, Anju Modi, Charu Parashar and Rina Dhaka.
Rina Dhaka, whose collection exuded a glamor rarely associated with khadi, said her work — which used ropes, beads, piping and threads — took on a life of its own. “Yes, you don’t see khadi and glamour, but it is possible; there is nothing more sustainable than these fabrics,” she said.
“Ironically, ‘touch’ became a fear during COVID-19, but touch is also a prasad [an offering to the gods], what we give in temples. Khadi is created from the fingers of the weavers, so many hands have touched it before it reaches the model. In my eyes, touch is the therapy part of clothing. The journey of the garment is part of what it gives to the person who wears it — it is a sustenance fabric; it is what the Mahatma advocated; it is about self-reliance — it is not about the freedom struggle now, but about uplifting those who make it. The growing demand for it will also help in bringing up the price.”
Her aim was to show that discrepancies and flaws are a part of actual beauty — “because it is not a fabric without flaws,” Dhaka explained.
The fashion week itself was reinvented in various ways as well — after two years of digital and part phygital shows — making its first completely live event after the outbreak of the pandemic. It combined the strengths of the two separate fashion weeks in India — Lakme Fashion Week centered in Mumbai and India Fashion Week centered in Delhi.
“It’s less about Lakme Fashion Week coming to Delhi, and more about Delhi hosting the joint event of the country,” Jaspreet Chandok said. “And an openness on all fronts — letting the designer decide how they want to do business and offer them the best platform.”