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Khadi

A journey through the past to help us shape our future.

by Stefano Aldighieri

A while ago, while visiting Arvind’s booth at the show Kingpins in NYC, an unusual fabric caught my attention; Khadi Denim, a “new” fabric developed using technologies and skills that were many centuries old; everything made entirely by hand, from spinning, to hand dyeing of the hanks, to the weaving, made only on handlooms following traditional methods born thousands of years ago.
Indigo is among the oldest dyes to be used for textile dyeing and printing, many Asian countries, such as India, China, and Japan, have used indigo as a dye for many centuries.
India is believed to be the oldest centre of indigo dyeing in the Old World and it was a primary supplier of indigo to Europe as early as the Greco-Roman era.
Khadi is a term for hand spun and hand-woven cloth from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, mainly made out of cotton.
In India however, Khadi is not just a cloth, it is a wholemovement started by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Gandhi began promoting the spinning of khadi yarns for rural self-employment and for selfreliance (instead of using cloth manufactured industrially in Britain) in I92Os India, thus making khadi an integral part and icon of the Swadeshi movement. The freedom struggle revolved around the use of khadi fabrics and the dumping of foreign-made clothes.
I took a trip around Gujarat to view the process and document it in pictures. It is perhaps the only fabric that can claim to be truly sustainable: no chemicals, no electricity, no high tech, no use of depletable resources. It could be made virtually anywhere, and it requires very simple machines.
Is Khadi denim today a solution to our environmental nightmare? Of course it is not realistic to assume that this fabric could ever replace the millions of yards of mill made denims we see/make/buy every day, it is neither feasible, nor commercially viable.
However,it is important to understand how -and why- this is still being made, appreciate it for what it is, and perhaps use the learnings in our everyday life.
The ‘khadi spirit’ means fellow-feeling with every human being on earth.
It means a complete renunciation of everything that is likely to harm our fellow creatures.