Within the fashion industry, Khadi was treated like an anomaly. It was like the drunk, inappropriate uncle at every family do. Many designers would find Khadi not so fashionable and consumers in turn found Khadi products dated. Till it got the rehab treatment, coming out all new and cured.
It can be incorporated into your wardrobe easily. One does not have to be gift-wrapped head to toe in Khadi to legitimize its usage. Sticking to basics is a good idea. We enjoy the tradition of buying fabric and taking it to our friendly neighbourhood tailor to get a bespoke article of clothing made. Buying cotton or silk Khadi and getting it tailored assures a good fit.
A well-fitted shirt with tailored wool-blend Khadi trousers is a great pairing and shows off the weave’s versatility. Find a silk-blended khaddar wrap or scarf to layer upon an existing dress. A well-constructed, wool-blended, coarse jacket in Khadi is reminiscent of Chanel’s classic jackets. Worldwide, native influences are influencing accessory and product design. Aztec-inspired prints on backpacks, Navajo-centric table linen and Ottoman era-inspired, well what else, but ottomans! The same thing is achievable with Khadi.
Khadi fits in beautifully with people who enjoy elements of grunge in their wardrobes. The fabric crushes easily and ages really well. The more you wash it the better it looks and feels. Khadi that is woven to specifications turns out to be more expensive than mill-produced cotton. That pushes up its “snob” value as a fashion and utilitarian fabric. I’ve personally used screen-printed khaddar as a designer and it turns out great! We either use the fabric in its basic form or make an honest effort to contemporize it.
I guess what makes people shy away from this hand-spun fabric is the burden it carries—from being a political tool to a way of life to being used as a political tool again. But actually Khadi needs to be perceived, worn and treated as we would any other fabric.
The writer is a Kolkata-based fashion designer.