We’re nothing if not a country high on heritage, and handlooms form an integral part of Indian fashion. Seven fashion designers and brands delve into details of the handloom fabric they work with the most, and the stories they weave


Akaaro, Gaurav Jai Gupta’s brand, weave their own textile, with a loom in their studio. The woven fabric is then sent to weavers across the country to produce it on a larger scale. Hand-quilted blend of zari and silk, cool wool and silk weaves, feature in his work “I know the narrative that we usually use is benarasi, chanderi etc., but from a technical point of view, these are just names of the cities where the fabric is made. We do a lot of silks, wool, and cotton, and we do blends, like silk wool, or stainless steel with wool or cotton. I use a lot of metallics, with steel or copper. We take the yarns, and work with them. I’ve always majorly worked with natural materials, it’s my palette. I don’t like the idea of synthetic anyway. Handwoven material is always more breathable, and I like doing newer blends within. I like innovation, and pushing the idea of where we can take Indian textiles futuristically. I don’t use motifs, or traditional Indian motifs. We do more abstract work, and I like working with abstract patterns, and geometry.”


Fashion designer Ujjawal Dubey of Antar-Agni works with handwoven cotton, and a blend of cotton and silk, mainly. This fabric is manufactured in Meerut, Bhagalpur and Maheshwar. “We usually work with fabrics that are unique in nature. Fabrics like handwoven cotton, cotton-silk are a few fabrics that we work with. We have also recently developed a handwoven fabric with elastane, cotton and zari which has been used in some of our styles. Handmade fabrics have a character that is waiting to be explored and have a natural aesthetic to it, which is something I love. The fact that it goes through a process of touch and feel elevates its look and value. While we mostly prefer working with handwoven fabrics, you will come across exciting prints and embroideries in some of our garments.”


11.11/eleven eleven, the brand child of designers and founders Shani and Morikawa, uses kala cotton as the backbone of their fiber portfolio. Kala cotton is indigenous to the region of Kutch, on the west coast of India “Hand spun kala cotton, as a fabric, feels real in a way that only things which take the correct amount of time to mature can. Kala cotton is a non-GMO seed, one of the oldest recorded strains of cotton, and it does not require irrigation beyond the natural rainfall of the region. Our label uses heritage techniques such as handloom weaving, hand painting, miniature tie-dyeing, and quilting. Many of the rurally located artisans we collaborate with already work from home — their spinning wheel, loom and kitchen activities happen in the same space. We found an alternative to fast fashion in the humble handloom fabric. We take refuge in the qualities of hand-knitting, painting on textile, the animated quality of bandhani, the earthiness of natural dyeing, and the pure power of collective e ort. Other fabric arts like bandhani, kalamkari, mirrorwork, shibori, block printing, and natural dyeing are some of the techniques we work with to embellish and enhance our textiles.”


The designer & founder at Yavï works with chanderi, khadi, pashmina, silk, brocade, and jamdani, as well as explores smaller weaving clusters in Kashmir and Kullu “The best part about our heritage is that the weaves of each state have something special to o er. It is rather exciting, studying the crafts and working within its rules/parameters to create something that embodies the brand’s language and comes together in its own unique journey. I like working with artisans, as it enables you to see your vision, with their expert craftsmanship. The fabric art that I explore in my work would be hand embroidery, patchwork, petal dyeing, adda work, machine embroidery, block printing, digital printing, crochet, tie and dye.”


Menswear designer Gadi has always pushed for quirk in his work. He uses matka silk from Bihar and Assam, as well as Andhra handloom cottons “I love using heavy matka silk. I find the thickness and weight of the fabric perfect for menswear. The look and feel of the fabric is such that it works perfectly for Indian festive wear, as well as for western outfits, and is versatile in adapting to the embellishments and silhouettes one chooses to work with. The fabric is also very trans-seasonal. I usually work with matka silk from Bihar and Assam. Another fabric I love working with, is Andhra handloom cottons. They make for the the absolutely comfortable material for shirts and kurtas, as the fabric is a breathable one.”


Revivalist designer Sonam Dubal uses handloom woven khadi for his menswear collections, which is woven in Pondichery. The khadi is layered with di€erent textiles, such as silk “One of our most popular fabrics in menswear is handloom woven khadi. Having a home in Pondicherry, I was introduced to the Ashram weaving centre by my friend. I loved the woven textiles that they made — both cotton and from fabric waste, creating beautiful textures. This handwoven khadi has a natural breathing property and takes extremely well to dye, while maintaining its texture and weight. This makes it perfect for creating the jackets in my collection. One of the founding principles of my label, Sanskar by Sonam Dubal, has been to work towards reviving craft, while working with artisanal communities. We work with craft techniques like block printing, dyeing and embroidery. Our collections are a melange of textiles, lile eri silk, khadi, chanderi, wool, vintage brocades and ikats.”


Founder of Pero, Arora uses handwoven merino wool, and pashmina from Himachal Pradesh, among other handwoven fabrics, with over 1,000 weavers across the country “The fabrics we work with would be handwoven cotton and linen (checks and stripes) from West Bengal, chanderi from Madhya Pradesh, cotton-silk from the south of India, handwoven merino wool and pashmina from Himachal Pradesh. The brand has worked in close collaboration with more than 1,000 weavers/craftspeople across various regions in the country to innovate handwoven, dyed, and printed textiles. Every season (twice a year), we develop nearly 50 varied textiles with at least five di‡erent regions in India, involving at least 500 weavers across the country.”