Last November, KH House of Khaddar (KHHK) — a joint venture between designer Amritha Ram and actor Kamal Haasan — launched in Chicago, with a Fall-Winter collection that included trenches, blazers, and skirts. On Republic Day 2022 it came to India. With organic colours such as olive, dove grey, spring blue and a fruity pink, the palette is youthful and hip, in keeping with KHHK’s aim to push the handloom conversation beyond our borders.
Was it because of KVIC’s (Khadi and Village Industries Commission) trademark of the name ‘khadi’ that they used khaddar in the brand name? “My father’s name is Srinivasan, but I go by the name Kamal Haasan. [Similarly] the genesis and DNA [of khadi] are the same, but our business models are different,” Ram recalls Haasan as saying.
She adds: “It’s all handloom and handwoven, and that’s the beauty of it. If demand for our weavers’ work grows, we will employ more and even train new weavers.” Meanwhile, the big question is whether a celebrity-endorsed venture will finally help bridge the gap between the handspun fabric and a new, young audience. (The finished product is often expensive and inaccessible after top designers work with it.) We talk to some industry experts.
Founder of Save the Loom, which works with handloom weavers in Kerala
Hand-spun fabric and youth: Khadi has definitely got attention in the Modi era, but not enough to rejuvenate its spinners and weavers. Handspun, handwoven khadi has huge potential as it is entirely produced by human hands; it is not just sustainable but also is suitable for all seasons. There is a global awakening towards khadi — this is from our experience of launching the ‘Colors of Resilience’ project [when over 20 leading designers worked with Kerala khadi and this found a global audience in 2018-19].
The Kamal Haasan connect: He is a legend and will surely bring attention to khadi. We hope that instead of merely selling it under his brand name as a business, he steps forward to speak of [the fabric] and its Gandhian values. Khadi needs the attention and who better than the country’s cine stars?
Founder of Metaphor Racha, which works with ambara charaka handspun handwoven fabric
Celebrities and khadi: Rather than launch a label, a celebrity wearing the handloom regularly is in itself a huge endorsement! An actor does not have to launch a label to promote the fabric.
A new audience: We should first educate the younger lot about not just what khadi is, but also what it signifies. [Since it is often expensive] rather than expecting them to dress up in it, they can start small, with, say, a handkerchief that does not cost much. The idea is that they understand the fabric.
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