As compared to the industrially grown cotton, kala cotton is genetically pure and perfectly suited to grow in Kutch. On an average, Kutch gets between 300 and 400 mm of rain a year, which is enough to cultivate kala cotton. However, amidst the trend of industry-grown cotton rising, kala cotton took a backseat. But owing to the rise of consciousness for organic clothing, kala cotton has faced a much-needed revival.
“The demand for kala cotton is good and we have been getting a positive response from across the globe all this while. Pandemic or no pandemic, the trend for kala cotton and its acceptance have been growing phenomenally. The weaving of kala cotton deserves extra attention and requires a special loom set up. That is why not many weavers are keen to weave fabrics using this cotton,” noted Sunil Vankar, a young generation Kutchi weaver.
“We have been working in the craft and textiles for over a decade, and have connected with a few organisations in Kutch. The kala cotton initiative was started by Khamir, and due to our long-standing relationship, procuring the fabric was not a bigger challenge for us. What was challenging, though, was the time frame for the fabric to get ready, as it is completely hand-woven. There are inherent variations in the fabric that is a quality of any handloom textile,” highlighted Jayashree Krishnan, Founder, Maati Crafts.
“The fabric is a short staple fabric, has a coarser texture and is thicker than normal cotton. We love these qualities of the fabric, and have personally found no issues in stitching garments.
The natural yarn comes in kora (plain white) and further yarns are dyes to weave patterns and fabrics in natural colours. The fabric and colours are very earthy and make the collection distinct in every way,” this, Jayashree noted, is the reason most brands prefer to use kala cotton for specific collection requirement.
The market for kala cotton
“The wholesale rate of kala cotton, even for the undyed fabric is on the higher side, which is why there are not many takers for the fabric. However, we weave smaller quantities of 10-15 metres also, if need be, especially for sampling purposes. But, since the last few years, the response and understanding of the fabric have grown and takers within the domestic market are also increasing in a steady pace,” Shamji Vankar, Owner, Extra Weft Handloom, cited while talking about general market response towards kala cotton.
“The journey of kala cotton has its origins as sustainable and environmentally friendly cotton. It is also a hand-woven textile with a low carbon footprint, and also provides livelihoods to weavers and artisans. This resonates with our brand story, and therefore, holds a special place in our collections. The fabric’s inherent texture, colour and pattern have interesting elements that help us come with beautiful collections that are enjoyed by all customers. We have started working with kala cotton, and have launched multiple collections over the years, and we have always got a fantastic customer response. Consumers see value in indigenous textiles and understand the inherent value of the product. Customers are willing to see the value if the weave is unique and contemporary and the clothing made is timeless and functional,” Jayashree highlighted the consumer point of view.
As for the merits of the fabric, it is perfectly comfortable for the Indian weather. It is a 100 per cent organic, sustainable fabric free of any pesticides or chemicals. The fabric has some coarseness to it, which makes it look very beautiful and unique. That is why, Jayashree says for brands like hers whose ethos rest on sustainability, kala cotton is a very good and viable fabric option.
Today, apart from weavers’ independent efforts, organisations like Khamir serve as a platform for the promotion of kala cotton. The Kala Cotton movement by Khamir was initiated in 2007, and since then, the organisation has connected the dots between traditional weavers and brands or textile merchants. Khamir, through its efforts, promotes Kutchi handicrafts and allied cultural practices and works towards the preservation of culture, community and local environments. In their efforts, they are striving to keep the value chain and the process of acquiring the fabric as transparent as possible. From here on, the higher the takers, the greater will be the reach of kala cotton, thus pushing us towards a sustainable world.