When fashion designer Ritu Beri heard Prime Minister Narendra Modi quote Mahatma Gandhi, “Khadi is not just a fabric (“vastra”) but a serious thought (“vichar”), she decided to create something that can be worn by every Indian and decided to name the garment Vichar Vastra! She tells us why wearing eco-friendly handspun Khadi clothes may soon be a global phenomenon.
Tell us about your relationship with Khadi.
The fabric played an important role during the Independence Movement. My great grandfather was a big believer in the significance of Khadi in nation building. I remember an unbreakable rule existed in our house to wear Khadi clothes. So yes, I have a special relationship with Khadi and love wearing it. Khadi is an obsession when it comes to my wardrobe.
When I travel to Paris, I carry plenty of Khadi for my friends. Similarly, when my French friends come over to Delhi, I take them to the Khadi Gram Udyog outlet, where they waste no time getting into crisp Khadi kurtas. The whole intention behind the Khadi movement is to make the world understand how beautiful our textiles are. We have a unique heritage that we need to take forward. I also wear a lot of Khadi in the summers. I love the fabric as it’s very versatile and the most breathable fabric to wear in summer.
What are the advantages of Khadi as a material?
Khadi is a breathable, comfortable and ‘Made in India’ organic fabric. It provides employment and hence food to the poor, who spin and weave Khadi cloth. It’s made of cotton, so farmers get money. It is eco-friendly and porous. Khadi stands for austerity and simplicity. It connects one to the freedom movement, to Gandhi and all those who believe in his values. Your Khadi clothes are a flag of the values you cherish.
The fashion industry has begun to recognise Khadi as among the most luxurious fabrics produced in India. It’s a weaver’s delight.
Tell us about your new collection and how you decided on the colour palette.
With Diwali festivity round the corner, I created a collection of Western and Indian ensembles. I thought it would be the ideal time for people to go buy Khadi and promote it among their friends and families. We are trying to promote it among the youth of India. For me, it is the most luxurious, special, handspun, hand-woven fabric and has zero carbon imprint. Also, as a designer, it is a fantastic fabric to work with. I have had an experience of 25 years in fashion industry designing clothes for international and national celebrities; now my effort will be to try and motivate people to wear Khadi globally.
I am trying to give Khadi a global image, to adapt it to different forms of creativity, instead of restricting it to the image of yesteryears. The silhouettes are a mix of our rich tradition with a contemporary look; the clothes are easy to wear yet glamorous, essentially an eclectic blend of Ghagras, Salwars, Choga-like jackets and easy to wear tops. Interesting details, a mix of appliqué as well as unusual embroideries, constitute this versatile collection of Khadi for today’s woman.
The color palette ranges from whites to pastels, metallics to blacks, enabling the freedom to create one’s own chromatic world of fantasy.
You started your designing career with khadi 25 years ago. How does it feel to return to it?
Twenty-five years ago, I chose Khadi as a fabric to launch my brand. It was a fabric I was comfortable with as I had seen it right from my forefathers to cousins wearing them. I could easily express my creativity. But there was one more reason for using the fabric, espoused by Mahatma Gandhi, by the then fledgling me as a designer. The first two collections were in Khadi. Now, when I look back, I realise that I have always been in love with this fabric. Khadi makes the person stand out. If a bride wears khadi, she immediately gets noticed, but now we see the same monotonous looks during weddings.
It feels great to return to it as Khadi is one of my favourite fabrics. As advisor to the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, when I was encouraged by Meenakshi Lekhi, BJP leader, I decided to give it an impetus and make it relevant for every age group.
As an advisor for Khadi promotion, what does the movement to wear khadi need? Have you received support from other designers in your endeavor?
Through my new line, I have tried to give Khadi a global image and present its versatility in different ways. The effort is to reach out to the youth of India instead of restricting it to the image of yesteryears. Many celebrities and politicians have endorsed the Vichar Vastra, including cricketer Virender Sehwag, politicians Meenakshi Lekhi, Shashi Tharoor, Pawan Verma, Jay Panda, journalist Rajat Sharma, bureaucrat Amitabh Kant; CEO, NITI Aayog, Dr. Naresh Trehan and model Nayanika Chatterjee and singer Jasbir Jassi to name a few.