Chairman Fashion Design Council of India
Sunil Sethi, the chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) has been appointed advisor to the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). Sethi talks about the challenges ahead.
What was your reaction on the appointment?
It is a rare honour to be associated with an organisation of this depth and magnitude, which has been working tirelessly to engage customers with khadi and giving employment to millions of weavers. Talks were on with the chairman of KVIC, but as they say, when the time is right, things happen.
What would be your vision and advice for KVIC?
As I have been closely associated with the design world for over 30 years now, my expertise-which FASHION DESIGN COUNCIL OF INDIA is not limited to just the national level-but also transcends international boundaries, will help take khadi to new heights. I think design intervention-involving the fashion fraternity that I have been working with for many years will serve as a springboard in achieving this purpose.
You have a vast experience in the fashion business in India and abroad. What do you think is needed to promote khadi both in the country and also globally?
This is an extremely relevant question as the world is now adopting slower processes and khadi is a perfect fit. It has the potential to find a relevant position of power in the international market, which understands the need for organic, handspun materials which are soaked in the need of the hour-less is more. As the world declutters, thinks beyond just consumerism, khadi will be a flagbearer of the 'Make in India' campaign, offering the world a glimpse of what handcrafted truly stands for.
Khadi keeps one warm during winters and cool in summers. This attribute can make it an allseason material. However, this has never been communicated. Think how a chocolate brand had tried to pitch itself as a substitute for mithai during festivals like Rakhi, etc. Any thoughts in this direction?
The young buyer needs to be initiated into the repertoire of khadi-that's the only way we can ensure its popularity. Once the millennial wants to buy and wear it, there is no stopping khadi from reaching millions of wardrobes. For this, we need smarter packaging, a louder voice that knows how to serenade this vastly tech-savvy population and also tell them how they can mix and match khadi with their other designer brands to make a cool statement. Cool in summer and warm in winter is an attribute that is well known, but yes, if it becomes a tagline like the memorable Amul one -"Utterly butterly delicious-Taste of India", it will make inroads into the consumer psyche, which is the final goal. Leave an imprint there.
What will be your path in turning around the fortunes of khadi?
While khadi has gained global popularity over the years, its organic and environment-friendly nature has attracted global consumers. The products are carbon-neutral, environment-friendly and chemicalfree; plus, they are handcrafted. The making of khadi requires the minimal use of water-three litres for one metre, as compared to 55 litres consumed in making one metre of mill fabric. Thus, the former is sustainable-the need of the hour.
Many countries like Mexico are spinning khadi. Project Khadi
Oaxaca in Mexico’s San Sebastian Rio Hondo has adopted khadi as a way of life. KVIC
will seek the support of the United Nations in encouraging other countries to
embrace khadi. This will not only protect the environment, but also create
employment for millions of weavers and spinners across the world. Credit should
be given where it’s due and Vinai Kumar Saxena (the KVIC chief) and his team
have made a big difference in popularising khadi.
What has hampered the growth of khadi?
Poor infrastructure, outdated techniques and lack of sustainable livelihoods for artisans were primarily responsible for its earlier sluggish pace of growth. Artisans lacked advanced charkhas, looms, workplace and toolkits that not only resulted in low production, but the finished products too lacked uniformity.
According to me, it was considered fuddy-duddy and our Khadi Gram Udyog has been trying to modernise itself to suit the needs of customers who want some pizzazz in their dressing. There needs to be greater interaction with customers, more regular engagements through new mediums-online and virtual world-which have really emerged as the most potent carriers of information in the new reality.
Are there any statistics to show how many spinners and weavers of khadi are there in India? Any special plans for them?
At present, over five lakh khadi artisans are engaged with spinning and weaving activities across the country, and 2,600 khadi Institutions are manufacturing khadi products. A host of measures that includes better worksheds, charkha, modern looms, advanced toolkits, electric potter wheels for potters, training in various activities through multi-disciplinary centres, have resulted in a higher production of khadi.
New marketing channels and tie-ups with state governments, PSUs, various Central ministries like railways and health, and schools, colleges and universities where khadi products could be sold have been set up. This has been done to increase the incomes of artisans by selling their products. KVIC's e-portal khadiindia.gov.in is also proving to be an effective platform for selling khadi products.
This article was first published in the December 2020 edition of the print magazine.
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