Sustainable Materials: Khadi Cotton

In the fashion industry, there has been an increasing number of new material terms being thrown around, many of which claim to make the particular clothing ‘more sustainable’. However, with the rise in greenwashing, it can be confusing for consumers to know which materials are actually sustainable and have a low impact on the environment. We want to change that. 

To better inform customers, we will be exploring different materials and its environmental impact through a series of articles. In this article, we will be focusing on Khadi, more specifically Khadi Cotton, an indigenous cotton fabric that is used in our Alankara Collection.

Embroidered Pants made with Khadi Cotton

What is Khadi? 

Khadi is a handmade or handwoven fabric made from natural fibers. Unlike handlooms in general, which can include clothing made with mill-made or man-made yarn, Khadi is only handmade with handspun yarn. This yarn is made from natural fibers such as cotton, silk or wool or a mix of 2 of them in different ratios. 

Khadi is used to make a variety of items such as clothing, bags, bedding, and upholstery. It is mainly made in the eastern regions of India and in Bangladesh. 

Brief History of Khadi

Khadi was promoted by Mahatma Gandhi during the Swadeshi Movement, also known as the Indian Independence Movement. During this time, there was a boycott of British products, including foreign cloth. As a result, spinning and weaving of Khadi was seen as a form of self-reliance and self employment. Since then, the handweaving technique used to create Khadi has become deep rooted in Indian culture. 

What is Khadi Cotton?

In this article, we’ll mainly be focusing on Khadi Cotton, which essentially refers to a handmade fabric that is made with 100% handwoven cotton. In recent years, there has been an increasing number of discussions on Khadi Cotton as an ethical and sustainable material that can help shape a more responsible fashion industry.

What Makes Khadi Cotton Sustainable?

Khadi Cotton has a lower environmental impact and supports the local economy. The handspun yarn used to create the Khadi is made from a locally-produced variety of cotton that is indigenous to India. Additionally, the process of spinning and weaving Khadi uses human power, instead of chemically-intensive and machinery-intensive industrial practices. As a result, the whole process of making Khadi Cotton has a lower overall carbon footprint and environmental impact compared to conventional apparel supply chains. 

Lambani Artisans working on Alankara Embroidered Trousers

Keeping the entire supply chain local also creates new opportunities for the local artisans and weavers. And just like during the Swadeshi movement, it continues to encourage self-reliance and self-employment for local communities. One example is how Khadi Cotton has helped support indigenous communities, or Adivasi communities, in India. Many Adivasi communities are skilled in handweaving and as a result, they participate in making Khadi Cotton. Additionally, they also have many skilled artisans who are experts in embroidery and help incorporate Khadi to create unique and creative designs for their own cultural dress.

How Does Tega Collective Incorporate Khadi Cotton?

At Tega Collective, we wanted to not only use materials that have low environmental impact but also to empower the Adivasi community and further amplify their work. In fact, our entire Alankara collection is made through collaboration with the Lambani Adivasi community. The Lambani artisans handle multiple parts of the apparel chain from the spinning to the handloom to the dyeing and embroidery. And several of our pieces in the Alankara Collection are made with Khadi Cotton. 

Check out some of the Khadi Cotton pieces the artisans of the Lambani Adivasi community helped to create create here, including the Embroidered Trousers, Embroidered Half-Sleeve and Embroidered Shorts

Alankara Shorts and Pants

For more information on the artisans we work with and for a breakdown of other sustainable materials we incorporate at Tega Collective, please check out our journal or subscribe to our newsletter! 

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