As a designer and stylist, I try to incorporate the rich, diverse cultural flavours and influences of our country in my choice of colours, patterns, and fabrics. I consider myself lucky to be able to draw upon such exhaustive historical assortment of textiles, yarns, and looms. An estimated 95% of the world’s handwoven textiles and most numbers of handloom weavers in the world are based in India.
We are witnessing a resurgence of many such ethnic gems – crafts carefully nurtured and practiced by a generation of weavers across India. I have listed a few such tremendously popular handloom fabrics that are making waves across the global fashion markets and are increasingly finding shelf-space at prestigious fashion events, ramps, and boutique lines.
Ikat fabrics are easily recognizable with their blurry designs and traditional patterns. Two different sets of skilled artisans (first dyers and then weavers), help craft these beautiful fabrics. Ikat’s ability to be designed into Indo-western tops or western dresses or ethnic kurtas or sarees, while looking equally hip in all forms, makes it appealing to all audiences and fast becoming a must-have wardrobe option.
Like its famous bled or blurred patterns, the origins of Ikat are equally blurry. Regardless, Double Ikat has a firm foothold in India – especially Odisha in the East, Gujarat in the West and a few other states including Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Of these, the Patan Patola is considered to the most difficult, complicated and expensive Ikat pattern to make.
Since Ikat is a dye-&-weave handwoven technique, it can be woven with different fabrics, though primarily wool, silk, and cotton are used. This fabric will be seen prominently this summer. Cotton Ikat fabrics are lightweight, breathable and excellent material for a range of fashionable summer wear.
I recommend knee-length Ikat summer dresses, bright, stylish kurtas that are guaranteed to make you look elegant, classy and stand-out.
Some credit is due to our beloved actress Sridevi who wore Kalamkari blouses and sarees with royal aplomb and grace, drawing a spotlight on this uniquely Indian art form. Indian designers are adopting kalamkari artwork in their fashion lines with astoundingly beautiful results.
The name Kalamkari itself signifies the craft – ‘craftsmanship of the pen.’ Craftsmen in Odisha and neighbouring states practiced this art, though it gained popularity until it gained patronage under the Mughal rulers of Golconda (Hyderabad). Even today, artists practising this ethnically beautiful art form are found in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Kalamkari uses natural dyes and colours from plants, seeds, minerals, metal ores, etc. to gives its intriguing penmanship. Mythological stories and epics generally influence these designs, as much as natural motifs and regional influences. Depending on the method of printing, Kalamkari work is seen on Cotton, Cotton Silk, and Rayon; the latter is standard on mass-produced digital block-printing.
Hand-printed Kalamkari work can make a pure cotton fabric look gorgeous. I would recommend opting for cotton kalamkari sarees, blouses or even kurtas this summer as a peppy, ethnic option to remain fresh and trendy this summer.
Evidence suggests that Hemp has been growing alongside humans since the ancient civilizations – and in India at least since the early 8th Century BC. This olden crop may have gained notoriety in recent decades and has suffered extensive collateral damage due to America’s War on Drugs (since Hemp is mistakenly clubbed with its close-cousin marijuana and cannabis).
But, Hemp is a versatile crop that is organic, less damaging to the environment, requires much lesser irrigation than cotton and apparels made from hemp fabrics are rustically stunning.
Since this trend is still in its nascent stages, primarily due to the lack of manufacturers of hemp fabrics yet, I will watch out for this market closely. Hemp fabrics have great potential, especially for India. With its linen-like weave and cotton-like feel, hemp kurtas, saree material, designer blouses, summer tops, and short dresses are very suited to our high summer temperatures.
Khadi is a very-well known fabric tied to the core of independence struggle of our country. This fabric can be hand-woven, or mill-woven (though khadi ideally relates to hand-spun, hand-woven). Its breathability makes it extremely efficient in keeping the hot sun at bay.
Khadi tops and kurtas have been making fashion statements for years now, though its close not-Indian counterpart – Linen is gaining more popularity. Though linen looks like Khadi, it is not necessarily the same fabric. Weaving cotton, silk or wool from Khadi is possible.
A classic Khadi kurta or an intricately woven blouse, can never wrong.
This famous cotton wraps and weft style from its namesake village in Madhya Pradesh is a light-weight, pastel-hued (though this is changing with reds & dark colours now being adopted), ideal summer choice.
Chanderi fabric relies heavily on handwoven handloom for its motifs or buttis. Specialized needles create art forms inspired by nature – real or mythological. Geometric patterns also are part of Chanderi handloom.
This fabric is ideal for gorgeous designer sarees and custom kurtas and lehengas, especially in the summers. Designers are also introducing jackets, shrugs, and coats using this versatile fabric.
India has a rich history of handloom and weaving community. Royal patronage kept these generations of skilled artisans thriving. Now it is up to us to continue supporting these incredibly talented weavers by considering ethnic handloom options for our wardrobe.