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FashionSustainable DevelopmentWomen Entrepreneurs

Reviving Traditional Handicrafts and Building a Sustainable Future in Indian Fashion

Delve into the world of Indian fashion with Payal Jain as she passionately advocates for the revival of traditional handicrafts and sustainable practices. Learn about the challenges artisans face, the need for ethical fashion, and the role of designers in promoting India's rich textile heritage. Embrace a future of meaningful and eco-friendly fashion in this enlightening article.

Two decades ago, when I first started working with craft and textile NGOs across the country, I had a burning passion for Indian textiles, which I harbor to this day. I feel blessed to have been born an Indian and have the opportunity to work with this endless legacy of textiles, embroideries, and crafts.

As far as promoting traditional Indian textiles and crafts are concerned, I feel we have made a beginning – but there is a long journey ahead. We are fortunate to have such a rich and varied heritage of textile, where each state has something unique to offer – from weaves to embroideries and prints. It is up to our generation of designers to bring this to the world and make sure it translates into income for these dying traditions that have been passed down for generations. Much sustained work and commitment is required from everyone related to the fashion and textile industry for the lives of weavers and artisans across India to really begin to change. I am happy to see the government creating many new initiatives to promote textiles and I sincerely hope this movement will build momentum and take the world by storm.

Personally, my brand philosophy has always been rooted in promoting the local and indigenous textiles and crafts of India. This is a small endeavour to help sustain the livelihood our artisans and craft community. In today’s scenario, when Covid has put our lives at risk and even our existence is in question, it has become all the more important to promote our own artisans, weavers, crafts, and textiles. If we don’t do this with intention and commitment, we run the risk of their incredible heritage and legacy vanishing off the planet and our children never having the opportunity to experience their richness.

The survival of our precious crafts persons has been under threat for the past decade, with China producing cheaper versions of everything – from Kanjivaram to Chikankari, all made by machines and at a fraction of the cost of the original. These have seriously hurt our community of weavers and crafts persons, as most consumers don’t understand the difference between the real and replica and are happy to buy disposable versions of the authentic embroideries and textiles. 

There is a great need to create love, appreciation, and patronage of our vast textile heritage. It has been my sincere endeavour since I started my label to consciously work on reinventing traditional embroidery, hand block and weaving techniques, and to find markets and eco systems to sustain these in my own small and humble way.

In general, over the last few years the Indian fashion industry has seen a shift towards more meaningful, ethical, indigenous, and timeless fashion. Many designers have been moving towards the ‘Back to Roots’ phenomenon. Our country’s rich heritage of textiles, embroideries, and crafts is our strength. As designers, we have an obligation to create awareness and drive the way consumers see fashion. We need to work towards creating awareness about our environmental impact and controlling and reversing the damage that has already been done to the environment.

The Indian Textile and Fashion industry collectively employs billions of Indians, and it has now become imperative to look after their wellbeing, safety, and health. I feel there is a dire need for a basic certification process, possibly initiated by the Government with a handful of experts, to help our industry to implement and follow safety, health, and sustainable concerns. There is an urgent need to minimize wastage of water and power, recycle raw materials and scrap, minimize plastic packaging and use of other non-biodegradable materials, all towards making the garment production process sustainable and environmentally friendly. We need to implement end-to-end sustainable practices and processes across the garment and textile industry in our country. In creating circularity amongst our brand and premises, we now use woven and knitted fabrics created from ocean-bound plastics and plastic pet bottles, recycle all pre-production and post-production garment waste into accessories / home products and packaging, allow no use of plastic or paper in the premises, minimize our water and energy consumption, and repurpose old collections into new ensembles.

Covid has come as a rude shock to the entire world and is a wake-up call for us to stop carrying on the mindless damage we have been causing to our planet. Fashion contributes to a significant percentage of this and to the rapidly growing landfills. Responsible, ethical, and sustainable fashion is what the world needs and that will be the only way forward. Design houses, retail groups, stockists, buyers, bloggers, and stylists need to come together to spread this awareness. It is time for us to support sustainability in all our endeavors, to reinvent our fashion philosophy. Greater ease, comfort, versatility, ease of maintenance will be big driving factors in fashion collections. Fashion, as we have come to know it over the past decades, stands to be ‘Reset and Reinvented’ forever.


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