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Interview with Sunil Sethi

Sunil Sethi
Sunil Sethi
Chairman
Fashion Design Council of India
Fashion Design Council of India

Khadi only comes into the limelight twice a year during Gandhi's birth and death anniversaries. What more can be done to make it important throughout the year?

We did a show in Bhutan with khadi and it was a super-hit. The challenge is to take it international and be able to convince people that it is a fabric that is best suitable for all skin types, is fashionable, and you can now not only get a beautiful stole, but also buy khadi shoes in Varanasi and patola replete with inventive designs. The key is to offer a wide spectrum of products so that it caters to every customer at a price range that is commensurate with value for money.

How about incorporating khadi weaving as part of the school curriculum? (A whole new economy could come up around it).

Yes, the idea of introducing khadi activities in the school curriculum is under consideration. In fact, this used to be a part of school activities years back, but was discontinued. This will give future generations a feel of khadi and teach them how freedom fighters used the fabric as a statement of self-reliance.

Do you think innovations in khadi are moving with the times? What is the type of R&D that you would suggest for khadi?

Design innovations can make khadi leapfrog from a desire-based to need-based product. Customers buy and will spend a little extra, if they find something new which no one is offering, and this is something we can work on with designers who have in the past in their unique ways tried to incorporate khadi and its principles of simplicity into their design narrative. Lighter, less coarse, easy to drape, malleability are the tenets I advocate to make khadi slide into our closets. The KVIC wants to set up design houses to help khadi institutions in making products based on what the market wants. There are over 4,000 khadi stores. So, the reach is wide. All we need to do is make these work in tandem with youth aspirations.

Innovations like khadi denims could not be sustained. What will be your plan of action for R&D?

Arvind Mills had tied up with the KVIC to make denims that were handspun, indigo-dyed and artisanal, with Raymond buying almost 7,00,000 metre per annum khadi fabric. This will take off, as all good things take time to mature. I do not believe it has failed, as that is a strong word to use, as this is a move away from industrial setups towards promoting village economies and providing sustenance to weavers. Khadi weaving is a laborious process and also time consuming, but the beauty of these denims is that they lack rigidity and offer fluidity-two things that can make any product a commercial success.

Should khadi promotion go more hi-tech?

If there has to be a wider reach for the young generation and global consumers, it is crucial to adopt hi-tech methods of promotion. KVIC has held exhibitions across 60 countries to attract the global population. A new design intervention by renowned fashion designers, as well as associations with textile giants like Raymond, Arvind Mills and the Aditya Birla Group have benefitted khadi.

What should be the role of designers and how can they be a part of the promotions?

The government wants to increase the annual turnover of khadi to ?10,000 crore. Khadi is not just a fabric; it is a philosophy-it represents a movement, and this must be respected. Designers can get involved in this in a big way as the government is not only offering incentives in this category but has also sought their assistance in the past. It needs to be given a new avatar, which designers can do-make it part of their showcasing as it has all the ingredients that the new world demands-wellness and spiritual connotations.

Few know that even Japanese great Issey Miyake loved the versatility that khadi offered by retailing khadi ensembles in the 1980s. There has been a long association with designers both nationally and globally. Even Deepika Padukone wore a simple handspun sari for her wedding. This is the choice everyone should make to really make a huge impact and it must be promoted on multiple platforms. We need to put the message out there by using social media.
This article was first published in the December 2020 edition of the print magazine.
Published on: 11/01/2021

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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