The Khadi Story
The Khadi Movement – the fabric of the revolution
“This is sacred cloth,” said Mahatma Gandhi.
A 5,000-year-old craft that Mahatma Ghandi rekindled in India almost one hundred years ago. Khadi (pronounced Khādī) is any cloth that is hand spun and hand woven. In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi started his movement for Khadi when spinning and weaving were elevated to an ideology for self-reliance and self-governance.
Khadi became not only a symbol of revolution and resistance, but also the face of an Indian identity! It marked the start of a democracy in the true sense.
Mahatma Gandhi, who always wore Khadi, called it the “fabric of Indian independence.” He championed and supported the resurgence of Khadi to relieve poverty in villages across the country.
Khadi is much more than a fabric. It is a thought – an idea to unite a community and create a sustainable economic opportunity for everyone within the community. Khadi means jobs for everyone: it is the fabric of the revolution.
Over the decades Khadi has moved from a freedom fighter’s identity fabric to use in fashion garments. Today’s Khadi has many fibres, not just cotton. From region to region these qualities tell a story.
Irregularities are always to be found throughout a length of Khadi. Defects derived from human hands … this is the beauty of Khadi. It is this handmade quality of the cloth, with its inherent story of human energy, that creates a romance the connoisseur craves.
Khadi is not just a sound economic proposition. It is culture and tradition; it is the Khadi Spirit.
Hand loom vs power loom
The arrival of the power loom in India changed the textile industry forever. Before the power loom, social structure was more balanced; there was less distance between upper and lower classes.
When the power loom arrived, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer. Power looms allowed fabric to be produced more efficiently and cheaply. To compete, hand loom weavers had to match the prices. In doing so, the viability of hand looming collapsed and most weavers were forced to take up work within the power loom sector. Mass production and the booming demand for fast fashion had made their craft redundant and systematically destroyed the hand loom industry. Power looms now provide more than 70% of Indian textiles.
Tens of thousands of artisans lost their art, craft and culture. Some lost their lives to suicide. Village communities, once sustained by the textile industry, suffered heavy economic downturns.
Empowering people and communities
The resurgence of Khadi is bringing pride back to artisans and sustainability back to village communities. A new generation is being trained in the ancient traditions of hand looming, dyeing and other disciplines needed in the production and supply chain of Khadi.
Khadi production provides work for many men and women: farmers, cotton pluckers, silk producers, spinners, weavers, thread cutters, washer people, ironers, folders, dyers, transporters and deliverers, plus many more employment opportunities.
The future of Khadi
Khadi has re-emerged as the fabric of the people, highly regarded for its durability, soft-feel and versatility. Fashion designers and consumers alike are drawn to its story, artisanal roots, sustainability and low carbon footprint.
In a world where slow fashion is regaining favour, Khadi is set to revive the artisanal traditions, skills and history, bringing vitality and sustainability back into rural Indian village communities.