Handlooms Of India : Textiles That Weave Our Identity


The handloom industry is the second-largest in India after agriculture, with nearly 4 million people working in this field. There are serval ways to uplift the industry but it needs government support and especially the will power of the weavers to step out of their comfort zone and change for the better. 
The pandemic has had an extremely negative impact on the handloom sector, affecting the livelihood of weavers everywhere. Fashion designers from across the country have been making attempts to revive Indian fabrics like chanderi, kalamkari, and banarasi. A Bangalore based organization (TRS) has started a campaign for the same. We can all do our part by promoting local products and local brands. The #Vocalforlocal moment is all about promoting local products and boycotting those that are not made in India. The world is moving towards a recession and now is the time to take action. 

Kanchivaram is traditionally woven silk from a village called Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, India. The origin of the Kanchipuram saree dates back to centuries ago when these sarees used to be woven in temples. Kanchipuram sarees are made from pure mulberry silk with borders and pallu in contrast colors and lined with heavy gold weaving. The inspiration behind these designs is South Indian temples and natural elements like birds, leaves, and flowers.

Kerala is known for its Mundus and the Kerala saree, which are typically undyed cotton fabrics with color or kasavu borders and a kasavu stripe on the pallu. The term Kasavu actually refers to the zari used in the border of the Kerala saree. In Kerala, traditional attire like saris, mundus, and settu mundus is generally called kaithari, meaning handloom. Kerala has three clusters that have been given a Geographical Indication tag by the Indian government.
Balaramapuram textiles (Thiruvananthapuram district)
Chendamangalam textiles (Ernakulam district)
Kuthampully textiles (Thrissur district)
Telangana is renowned for its world-famous Ikat designs. It is considered as one of the ancient Ikat weaving centers of India. The fabric used is cotton, silk, and sico, which is actually a mix of silk and cotton. Ikat represents a weaving form where the warp and weft are both tie-dyed before they are weaved to create any designs on the finished fabric.
Pochampally Ikat is well-known for its traditional geometric patterns with the Ikat style of dyeing. The intricate geometric designs are mastered by the hands of skilled weavers.
Chanderi is a traditional ethnic fabric characterized by its lightweight, sheer texture and fine luxurious feel. Chanderi fabric is produced by weaving silk and golden zari in a traditional cotton yarn. This fabric can be classified into three types – Chanderi silk cotton, pure silk, and Chanderi cotton.  Motifs created using Chanderi weaving are inspired by nature and include Swans, gold coins, fruits, and heavenly bodies. The color palette of Chanderi sarees is predominately ruled by soft pastel hues.
Banarasi Silk is a fine variant of Silk originating from the city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Mughals brought this fine craftsmanship in India and tried to glorify the art of weaving and designing with Persian motifs. It has actually been well known for the use of gold and silver brocade or the ‘Zari‘. The unique aspect of these sarees is the Mughal inspired designs which have been decorated with intricate floral as well as foliate designs.
The Paithani sari originates from the royal dynasties of the medieval town of Paithan near Aurangabad. It is believed to be made from the finest silk yarns of China and locally spun zari. Every piece is characterized by the luxurious use of gold as well as floral and bird-inspired motifs. The traditional motifs include parrots, peacocks, and lotuses.

Jamdani is a handloom woven fabric made of cotton, traditionally originated from Bengal, and historically referred to as muslin. The words ‘Jam’ and ‘Dani’ mean flower and vase. This weave done by loom on brocade is a time-consuming process and is a blend of figures and floral motifs. In Jamdani, motifs are inlaid into the fabric by adding a denser thread to fine warp by hand. It is considered as one of the finest varieties of muslin and the most artistic textile. 
Uppada, a small town located in Andhra Pradesh, is well known for its traditional Uppada Handlooms and its unique designs. They are handwoven using cotton or silk warp and weft. The count used in weaving results in the softness and hardness of the fabric. Uppada uses the technique of the traditional Jamdani weaving to create rich patterns using gold and silver zari.

Patolas are manufactured by the resist-dyeing process using the warp and weft technique on handwoven silk and take about 4- 7 months to weave. Patolas generally have abstract and geometric patterns of elephants, human figures, kalash, flowers, and parrots as well as designs inspired by the architecture of Gujarat. Natural dyes like indigo, turmeric, madder roots, manjistha, pomegranate skin, henna, and marigold are used in the making process.
Even though the handloom textile industry in India is glorified in today’s world, there are some major problems faced by the weavers in India. Starting from the increase in the price of the raw materials to the lack of modernization and to financial exploitation, they have faced it all. 
Multiplying prices of the raw materials like yarns and dyes have made it a nightmare for the weavers to procure them at affordable prices. This affects their work and product outcomes. The infrastructure of the workplace and the looms have affected the quality of work and have also had it time-consuming, making the product more expensive. Due to the vulnerable financial condition of the weavers and frequent exploitation, they are unable to invest in research and development, a serious impediment to tune in new designs.

Handloom : The Threads of Hope


Handloom, the most eco-friendly way of fabricating clothes, was formulated by Edmund Cartwright and patented in 1785. In India, it dates back to the Indus valley civilization, where farmers were the prime people to spin and weave cotton. The fabric utilizes the mechanical energy of the weaver rather than electrical energy. 

Opting for Handloom over other fabrics would benefit the industry in myriad ways since it is handwoven and has rare odds of being defective. Skilled weavers and artisans provide the utmost care to ensure good quality products. The handlooms sector is considered the second largest income-generating activity after agriculture. Therefore, encouraging the sector would indirectly mean providing employment to millions of artisans, especially from the rural area, and would boost women empowerment.

The time has come for people to understand the challenges of global warming and make the shift from power loom to handloom. This majorly contributes to a sustainable and eco-friendly environment which is much needed in the world today.  


The handloom textiles of India showcase the rich heritage of the country. Many fashion designers in India have worked with various craft and weaving clusters to revive traditional handloom Indian textiles. Lately, designers in India have explicitly portrayed their love towards Indian textiles and have incorporated them in the most distinctive way for the ready to wear markets across the country.



Known as the master of weaves, Gaurang Shah has crafted saris using various Indian handloom textiles like kanjivaram, Khadi, Uppada, Paithani, Patan Patola, Benarasi, Kota and Bengal weaves. His latest collection GHARAM MASALA in 2020 adds a fresh twist, using colors inspired by our spices. The monochromatic theme of the collection did not fail to amaze its audience.



The duo is a pioneer in resurrecting the best of the past and fashioning it for the future. Being pioneers in bridal lehengas, they have launched a sustainable brand called GULABO, focusing more on hand-spun Kora cotton embellished in linear Gota work and breezy silhouettes giving it an ‘oomph’ factor. 



Be it a collection with minimal prints and embroidery or a heavy dream bridal lehenga, Sabyasachi has never failed to amaze us with the amalgamation of different fabrics that lead to his whimsical collections. Sabyasachi uses Cotton, Khadi, Banarasi weaves and Kalamkari in a luxe bohemian way for pret and bridal wear. This creation of infusing various techniques together has given his designs a strong sense of organic and power dressing. 



In her recent collections EHSAAS, ANTHEEN and MASAKALI, we can implicitly see Anju Modi’s love for Khadi, Handspun Cotton, Banaras and Chanderi. Anju Modi’s Khadi collection at ‘Khadi, transcending boundaries’ featured various silhouettes ranging from Peplum to Dhoti pants, showing us how humbling Khadi can be.



Anita Dongre is well known for her explicit love for crafts and handloom across the country. She uses handwoven Malkha fabric, Maheshwari silk, handwoven Jamdani, and Ikkats in her exclusive collection, designed into saris, kurtas and dresses, providing the wearer with unparalleled comfort and style. The vibrancy and texture of these handwoven fabrics give the designs a unique look.



Rahul Mishra’s journey in the fashion industry has been full of exciting innovations. He has worked with various handloom fabrics like Maheswari silk, Chanderi, Banarasi silk, Bhalgapur silk, and Kerala’s handwoven cotton called Mundu. In order to celebrate the heritage of handlooms in India, Rahul Mishra showcased a collection at the Paris Fashion Week entirely made of Maheswari and Chanderi fabrics produced in rural India.

Rahul Mishra X Project Eve collections portray his long association with traditional Indian handloom textiles. A fine amalgamation of Indian textiles is made accessible in the ready to wear market in India.

Today, in the world of fashion, Indian designers have truly played a major role in reviving, uplifting and sustaining the techniques and skills of working with traditional handwoven textiles in our country and also making it viable for ready to wear.


Thrift Shopping : Opportunity To Beat Fast Fashion

With more than 70 million trees logged each year to deliver textures like rayon and thick, environmental change is hot closely following quick style. Expendable pieces of clothing (quick style) contribute more to environmental change than air and ocean travel (Imagine that). Design squander contributes essentially to the business’ exhibition on maintainability lists.

Perceiving this reality, numerous names have found a way to limit the waste emerging from their activities. Spanish brand, Ecoalf, for example, produces dress made altogether of waste material – fishnets, plastic containers, and disposed of tires, to give some examples.

India also has a lot of brands who are currently dedicated to diminishing the measure of waste texture produced each year – around 30,000 tons ( as indicated by the Institute of Manufacturing, University of Cambridge). With piece of clothing fabricating being probably the greatest business – representing practically 50% of our GDP – it’s not hard to envision why quick style might be an issue tormenting our island country. Be that as it may, we are making little walks.

MAS has promised that by 2025, all their waste will either be upgraded in esteem or up-cycled as crude material or as a totally new asset.

Prepared to-wear brands, similar to House of Lonali, make assortments made with up-cycled texture.

Bathing suit brands like Pigeon Island feature moral style by reusing plastic jugs to make their items.

What would you be able to do to help?

Presently with progressively normal cataclysmic events occurring because of our carelessness and a rush of increasingly cognizant and dependable design houses coming into the scene, us shoppers have the chance to step in and have any kind of effect. Right off the bat, by being purchasers to such mindful brands and also, moving beyond the underlying reservation to frugality shopping and being kinder to your wallet by finding your next closet in the intriguing racks of second hand store.

Individuals who love second hand shops truly love second hand shops. Also, they were picking up in ubiquity a long time before Macklemore’s “Second hand store” made its best endeavor to destroy that pattern. Clearly the general thought of a used store is eco-accommodating. Second hand shops resemble mankind’s used articles. That 7-Up logo tee can hypothetically be worn everlastingly, or possibly until the strings are truly worn through.

Recycled shops are only sometimes around Colombo and just a couple of remarkable ones have reliably pushed during that time to give the India open practical second hand store choices. The edges have a superior activity at having a network driven second hand store that they use and you should hit up the couple of we have seen down south in Hikkaduwa and Weligama.

By and by I hopped into the frugality shopping cart when I understood how much cash I spent on garments that don’t make due in my closet longer than a year or two. I unearthed this jewel called ‘The Store’ and I discovered Zara and Chanel tops for LKR 200 and I was sold (these Colombo 7 aunts working superbly in loading all these second hand store with some ageless costly pieces) . After a decent washing, I was prepared to stroll around acting like I was bougie enough to manage the cost of Chanel.

This particular store is situated on Thimbirigasyaya Road and is going by CHA (Center for Humanitarians Affairs) and all returns go to the Special Needs program led in-house. So notwithstanding being kinder on your wallet, it gives our worthless presence a break. The costs are as low as LKR 100 and would max go to a 1000 to this date. In Rathmalana, strategically located on Galle street lies a little second hand store called Rith Ru Bale House and in the event that you adventure further into Dehiwela you will locate a couple of shops to a great extent that can take into account your requirements.

One man’s garbage is another man’s fortune. Uncommonly when a few people’s refuse is mint condition supper coats and vintage dresses.

Upbeat capable shopping people!

Sustainable Fashion In The Aftermath Of Covid-19

Covid-19 has dealt a massive blow to most industries — fashion and textile being no exception. As countries continue to experiment with lockdowns and the demand for apparel and textiles shrinks, several major international retailers such as Primark and Forever 21 have taken the decision to postpone or cancel orders. In some cases, they have even refused to pay for clothing which had already been manufactured. For a countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh which relies on a large chunk of its exports being from the apparel and textile sector, the effects of cancelled and delayed payments can be and have been devastating. Thousands of garment factory workers will be laid off, with most having to return to their hometowns empty-handed and without hope of immediate employment.

This is a grim reality, but in some ways one could see this coming. The fashion industry has been on a trajectory of human rights violations and environmental degradation for quite some time now; the Covid-19 crisis has only made it more obvious, and brought the gross inequalities that persist in the labour market to the forefront.

The global fashion industry is the second highest user of water worldwide, generating 20 per cent of global water waste and is responsible for 8.1 per cent of greenhouse gases produced annually. That’s a lot of damage, especially at a time when scientists and activists world over are doing their best to avert the impending climate crisis.

So now that we can no longer feign ignorance, what’s the best way forward?

The answer may lie in sustainability.

According to Kate Heiny, Director for Sustainability at Zalando SE, nine out of 10 Generation Z consumers believe that companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues.

“We see a clear link between sustainability and continued commercial success. Our sustainability ambitions will help us stay ahead of customer demand after this crisis caused by the coronavirus. Both our current and future customer base are calling for more sustainable choices in fashion.”

What is sustainable fashion?

While there is no exact definition for the term ‘sustainable fashion’, it is widely believed to be an amalgamation of environmental, social and financial integrity.

Most businesses put profits at the forefront of their strategy at the cost of human and environmental rights, but sustainable business models consider the profits, people, and planet to be equally important. Special attention is paid towards the quality and longevity of the garments produced, as well as towards the people who are a part of producing it. In addition, a thorough check and balance is placed throughout all stages of the supply chain, including outsourced vendors.

Local perspective

“We work as a community, so I don’t quote or dictate the prices,” says Waqar J. Khan of Nasheman — a local sustainable fashion brand.

“We explain the kind of work we require, and the artisans then quote us a timeline and a price. We plan the rest accordingly.”

Before deciding to work with the artisans, Waqar spent a whole week in their village talking to them about how they work as well as their way of life. And as he was speaking to me, Waqar expressed the importance of identifying and understanding not only the strengths of a particular community of artisans, but also its limitations.

“We need to understand that artisans often reside in places with a lack of modern facilities, and have developed their own systems for working efficiently. Our job is to build a partnership based on trust and respect, which ends up being mutually beneficial.”

Amneh Shaikh of Polly and Other Stories shares a touching anecdote to emphasise the importance of treating employees as the unique individuals that they are, rather than a means to an end.

“I met Seher* around seven years ago, while working for a project where she used to do handicraft work for her neighbours and occasionally for a factory near her home. When she joined our project, the elders in her community branded her as a ‘bad’ woman for working outside the house. She persisted nevertheless. Fast forward to now, her daughter is a teacher, she herself runs a business and brings work for 25 other women in her community. It is a transformative story.

Now that I meet her, she says my name is Seher and I am a leader. It makes me want to cry because I remember seven years ago when I met her she used to say ‘baaji, I can’t do this, and this, and not even that’. Now she doesn’t only believe that she can do all the things she was once afraid she couldn’t, she believes she can lead others to do them too. That’s how far long-term commitment takes you.”

A change of pace

Pakistan is home to centuries old craft techniques and a rich cultural heritage; this combined with its significant artisan base can make it a hub for slow and sustainable fashion. However, we still see our local high-street brands failing to support or respect our craftsmen.

The success of international fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M has turned the local fashion industry on its head in the past decade. Instead of cultivating our strengths, we have joined the race of over-consumption and disposability. Consequently, our artisans end up as collateral damage in the war between craftsmanship and consumerism.

The irony is that while we chase the success of international fast fashion brands, these same brands are now adopting a more sustainable direction.

H&M plans to transition to 100% sustainable cotton by 2020, according to its 2018 annual report. Similarly, Zara has pledged to create collections out of 100% sustainable cottons and linens and 100% recycled polyester, with zero landfill waste from its facilities.

Even luxury brands are becoming more conscious, with Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele taking to his instagram to announce that they will be doing two shows per year rather than five. And Michele is not the only one.

In his open letter to fashion-industry trade journal WWD, Giorgio Armani urges us to “slow everything down, to realign everything, to draw a more authentic and true horizon. No more spectacularisation, no more waste.”

He further says that, “The moment we are going through is turbulent, but it offers us the unique opportunity to fix what is wrong, to remove the superfluous, to find a more human dimension…”

The ground reality

Only time will tell if changes in the international fashion fraternity are motivated by authenticity and the greater good or if it’s just prudent decision-making based on consumer trends and the predicted recession.

But something needs to change.

Ideally, every fashion brand would produce eco-friendly garments made by people who are treated with respect and paid fair wages. However, the prices of ethically produced garments often end up being too steep for the average consumer.

The 2019 Nosto Sustainability in Fashion Retail survey found that “over half (52%) of consumers in the UK and US want the fashion industry to become more sustainable, with calls for reduced packaging and fair pay for workers among their top demands. But only 29% of these consumers say they will pay more for sustainably-made versions of the same items.”

In order for slow fashion to become part of the mainstream, the government as well as the local fashion industry will need to be part of this shift in strategy. Our brands need to do more than just make ‘eco-friendly’ bags once a year. If they want to be on the right side of history, they must develop sustainable policies that can be implemented across product development, supply chain, and human resource management.

Consumer is king

We are all aware that the old normal doesn’t exist anymore, and in its place we are left with crumbling older systems. This may be the perfect time to build a newer, better normal.

But will the local audience agree to it?

Waqar believes that internationally things have been changing since a while, and will continue to change.

“The local market will be slower,” he says. “Local consumers don’t have much for entertainment other than shopping. If people stop buying less it will be due to the oncoming recession, rather than a shift towards sustainability.”

Amaneh thinks along similar lines. She says that instead of four to five collections per season, brands will probably do less as due to the recession consumers will not have the capacity to buy so much.

“The market forces are going to force everybody to slow down,” she adds.

Ultimately, every kind of progress takes time, and while Covid-19 has become a massive hindrance to our way of life, it has also forced us to rethink our priorities. It will take a thorough systematic change for the fledgling sustainable fashion industry in Pakistan to survive in the long run. Until then, it’s up to us to decide if we are willing to pay the true cost of what we wear.