This section on Ethical Fashion is made possible with the support of Bhu:Sattva
Colourful printed stoles, hand embroidered dupattas, block printed sarees and yardage, beautiful tops, tunics, jackets, hand bound books, bags- the usual products but with a big difference. The entire range of products from Bangalore based brand Metaphor Racha is made of khadi – hand spun and hand woven, all produced locally in Karnataka.
The coarseness and the imperfections of the local variant of the fabric have not stopped the founders, Chandrashekar and Ravikiran from experimenting with khadi. They are convinced that khadi is not just a mere fabric and describe it as a thought that embodies multiple different dimensions.
Metaphor Racha was born four years ago with a vision to produce hand spun and woven khadi textiles, focusing wholly on Karnataka. “Our neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have a strong history and tradition of khadi weaving. But, despite producing two major and authentic khadi varieties, the art of khadi weaving has languished in Karnataka with khadi weaving and the weavers not receiving as much support as they should have”, rues Chandrashekar.
The duo was brought together by their mutual love for khadi and for its use in their own lines of work. The name Racha (meaning ‘to create’), an amalgamation of their names, is testimony to their commitment to working with weaving communities to revive the art form.
Reviving khadi is so much more than just a fad
Today, we are in the midst of a frenetic transformation of the textile industry in India – right from the revival of handlooms to more energy efficient processes and eco-friendly ingredients, the sector is receiving a lot of interest. For the founders of Racha though, their work with khadi goes beyond its aesthetic appeal and the patriotic feelings it inspires in many. “For us, khadi is a way of life. It is about weaving the soul together with the yarn. As we redefine and rediscover khadi, we also absorb from it the imperfections of life, as the coarse fabric lends itself effortlessly into its warp and weft. At Racha, we celebrate the spirit of khadi – a simple thought that inspired a revolution”, says Chandrashekhar philosophically. However, the brand’s product designs are firmly rooted in being utilitarian.
Making a big impact with a small footprint
Across the supply chain, Metaphor Racha works almost exclusively with farmers and artisans from Karnataka. The fabric is grown, hand spun, dyed, and woven in the khadi centres of Belur, Chitradurga, Haveri, and Heggodu. The brand even designs its own hand blocks for printing and employs a unique printing process using handmade dyes. This ensures that the end result is a product with an insignificant carbon footprint. To guarantee the authenticity of its khadi, Metaphor Racha works in tandem with the State Khadi Village Industries Board.
For the artisans, khadi weaving represents an alternate occupation and thus an additional income source during periods of low agricultural productivity. Since the various stages of the khadi production process are largely home based, it allows the artisans to participate in activities like warping, spinning, and printing. “In a realisation of Gandhi’s vision, we try to put into practice his principle of a self-sustaining village economy where, rain or shine, agricultural families can return home to weave fabric and earn a living”, explains Chandrashekhar.
As a predominantly home-based, handmade, and supplementary economic activity, khadi production stands in contradiction with the world of fast fashion. “It is a slow process that cannot be rushed to accommodate the need for instant gratification that we have become used to. Ours is not a deadline-focussed approach and we arrange our work to fit in with the lifestyles and schedules of the artisans so as not to disrupt their daily rhythms. Thus, it becomes even more important to understand the people and their ways of life”, says Chandrashekar.
A poorly supported khadi sector has meant that most khadi artisans in the state possess only basic skills. Metaphor Racha focuses largely on skill enhancements of weavers rather than on design intervention. They work using items like lungis, towels, and basic kora fabric that are already being produced by the state’s khadi institutions, turning them into a wide array of products like napkins, quilts, home linen, garments, and saris. “Our aim is ultimately to support the craft and artisans in a way that that their products find a good place in the market”, Chandrashekar emphasises. The brand has adopted and revived a weaving institution on the verge of becoming defunct. This has allowed several spinners and weavers to remain in the craft.
Handmade khadi weaves the soul together with the yarn
Describing the beauty of handwoven cloth, Chandrashekar says, “Anything that is made by hand is a reflection of the mind and the soul. It allows us to imagine and connect with the soul and the hands of the artisans that brought it into existence. The imperfections of the cloth allow us to redefine beauty everyday and give garments a character that no machine can.”
All images courtesy Metaphor Racha.
The Sustainable Fashion Hub is a series that examines shifts in the the global fashion industry to more sustainable and ethical practices and processes, with a special focus on India. It explores what goes into creating a just and sustainable fashion value chain – from the creation of garments and lifestyle accessories to making them available to consumers. All content on the hub is produced with 100% editorial independence by The Alternative.
The Hub is supported by , India’s first certified organic designer apparel brand. With products that are directly sourced from organic cotton farmers at fair trade terms. Bhu:Sattva® uses natural colours, vegetable and herb dyes and goes further to work on reviving various forms of traditional weaving and handloom. Information on its products and processes can be found at http://www.bhusattva.com