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  • Writer's pictureFridaysForFuture.India

The textile industry of India

The textile industry of India contributes around 14 % to industrial production, and 4 % to the GDP, 17 %to the country’s exports, and 21 % employment. India is abundant in natural resources like cotton, jute and silk.At present the industry is growing at 9-10 % with Indian economy. Indian textile industry currently possesses a share of 4.7% in world market of textiles and clothing

The Indian textile industry principally relies on cotton as its key ingredient as it forms the building block of the entire ecosystem. As per India Brand Equity Foundation, the production of raw cotton in India is estimated to have reached USD 36.1 million sales in FY19, which plays a crucial role in the textile industry to flourish. Moreover, the availability of large varieties of cotton fiber along with the fast-growing synthetic fiber industry has helped the industry build a strong foundation for itself.

Why local textiles?What is wrong with fast fashion?

The fashion industry has disastrous impacts on the environment. In fact, it is the

second largest polluter in the world, after the oil industry.Damage is only increasing

as the industry grows.

Fast Fashion: Mass-production of cheap, disposable clothing. Countless new collections per year make one constantly feel out of date and encourages one to keep buying more.

The ways in which fast fashion is degrading the environment:

Water pollution: In most countries where garments are produced, untreated toxic wastewaters from textiles factories are directly dumped into the rivers.Another major source of water pollution is the use of fertilizers for cotton production

Water consumption: Huge quantities of fresh water are used for the dyeing and finishing process for all clothes.It takes up to 200 tons of fresh water per ton of dyed fabric.

Also, cotton needs lot’s of water to grow (and heat), but is usually cultivated in warm and dry areas.

Microfibres in our oceans: Every time we wash a synthetic garment (polyester,nylon, etc), about 1,900 individual microfibers are released into the water, making their way into our oceans. Scientists have discovered that small aquatic organisms ingest those microfibers. This results in plastic entering the food chain.

Waste accumulation: A family in the western world throws away an average of 30 kg of clothing each year. Only 15% is recycled or donated, and the rest goes directly to the landfill or is incinerated.

Chemicals: They are used during fiber production, dyeing, bleaching, and wet processing of each of our garments. The heavy use of chemicals in cotton farming is causing diseases and premature death among cotton farmers, along with massive freshwater and ocean water pollution and soil degradation.

Greenhouse gas emission:The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions.The global fashion industry is generating a lot of greenhouse gases due to the energy used during its production, manufacturing, and transportation of the millions garments purchased each year.

Synthetic fibers (polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc.), used in the majority of our clothes, are made from fossil fuel, making production much more energy-intensive than with natural fibers.

Soil degradation: The fashion industry plays a major part in degrading soil in different ways: overgrazing of pastures through cashmere goats and sheep raised for their wool; degradation of the soil due to massive use of chemicals to grow cotton; deforestation caused by wood-based fibers like rayon.

Destruction of rainforest: Every year, thousands of hectares of forests are cut down and replaced by plantations of trees used to make wood-based fabrics such as rayon, viscose, and modal.


Muga Silk : One of the rarest Silks in the world is the Muga silk from Assam. It is only produced in Assam. The fact that sets this Silk apart from all other versions is that it is totally golden yellow in color. The word `Muga’ means yellowish in Assamese. It is made from the semi-cultivated silkworm named Antheraea assamensis. It is organic and natural and has the strongest natural fiber.

It is the most expensive type of Silk .The major highlight of Muga Silk is that it is long lasting. It is said that generally, a Muga Silk fabric outlives the wearer.

It is known for its resilience. This is one unique fabric where the golden luster increases with age. Most importantly, while it has got a naturally golden luster and does not need any dyeing to be done, it is still quite compatible with most dyes.

Primarily, most of the Muga Silk cultivation takes place in the West Garo hills of Assam and a little bit is also done in the west Khasi hills of Assam which are the only homes to the silkworms – Som and Soalu which generate the Muga Silk thread.

It takes about 1000 cocoons to generate 125 grams of Silk and around 1000 grams of Silk is needed for a saree.

  • Eri Silk : The cultivation and weaving of wild silk are rooted in the life and culture of the people of North East India, especially in the state of Assam in India. From the various types of silk of Assam, the rather unknown eri silk is particularly fascinating, as it is processed without killing the silkworm. Commonly silk cocoons are boiled with the worm inside to maintain one continuous filament, which results in a smooth and shiny fabric. Interestingly the eri silkworm spins short segments of a filament and creates a cocoon that is open at one end – enabling the moth to emerge. This peace silk is therefore a very popular fibre among vegans and Buddhists.

For around 30 days the silkworm grows and munches on castor leaves until it reaches its final size. It then starts to spin its cocoon, which takes another 15 days. Once the moth leaves its cocoon, the silk is processed.The empty cocoons are degummed by boiling in water, made into small cakes resembling cotton pads and then thrown against the mud houses for drying. Once the cakes are dry, they are used for spinning which is done similarly to spinning wool.

  • Pat Silk : The world’s most loved and widely used. 80% of silk textiles are mulberry silk. Examples are the silk sari worn by Indian women, mekhala and chadar of Assamese women, and the jainsem, dhara and mukhli of Khasi women.

Usually comes in brilliant white or off-white shades, Pat Silk fabric is derived from Bombyx textor or Bombyx mori, a Mulberry Silkworm that feeds only on mulberry (Morus spp.) leaves and is known for its distinctive brightness, high quality and durable nature, hence also known as Mulberry Silk.

Way back in 1946, when Mahatma Gandhi visited Sualkuchi, the textile centre of Assam, Rajen Deka, a well-known designer of his time, gifted Gandhiji a portrait of him, weaved on a pat silk fabric. Gandhiji was so mesmerised by the quality and design, that he predicted that the weavers would weave dreams in their cloth.

  • Sualkuchi, a village in the northern bank of the river Brahmaputra is the center of Assam’s textile production, which has earned it the name of Manchester of India. The weaver’s village specializes in mainly two types of silk, Muga silk and Pat silk. Indigenous items such as mekhela chadors, and gamosas made of these materials are the famous products in the country. It has been declared as a Handloom Heritage Village, and thus is steadily growing up as an important tourist spot in Assam. Eri silks and Endi clothes from this region are also quite well known.

  • Bandhani : also known as Bandhej; is a type of tie and dye textile which is adorned by plucking the cloth into many bindings that form a design. Practiced mainly in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and some parts of Uttar Pradesh, the word Bandhani is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Banda’ which means ‘to tie’.

The art of Bandhani involves the dyeing of fabric which is tightly tied with a thread at several places to produce different patterns. It is the oldest form of tie and dye. Bandhani is generally performed on cotton and silk fabrics. The fabric is tied tightly, and it is then dipped in for a dye bath. Wearing Bandhani is a mark of identity in many communities. Bandhani is offered in different varieties; Ekdali means single knot, Trikunti means three knots; Chaubandi means four knots and Boond means a small dot with a dark centre.

Finer the Bandhani work, more expensive the fabric is. Bandhani fabric is dyed in 4-5 hours; and in winters, it dyes in 6-7 hours. Depending on the pattern of the fabric it is tied in, it produces different designs like Bavan Baug, Chandrakala, Shikari etc.

  • Pashmina : Pashmina (also known as Pashm) is a fine cashmere wool, coming from Kashmir in India and some parts of Nepal. The word ‘Pashmina’ comes from the Persian word ‘Pashmineh’ which means ‘made from Pashm’, and Pash means wool in Persian. The Iranians, who came to Kashmir via the Ladakh route, gave the fabric its name, ‘Pashmina’.

The wool comes from either a Changthangi goat or a Pashmina goat which are a special breed of goats indigenous to the high altitude regions of Nepal and India. The famous Pashmina shawls are made from this fine fiber.

The Changpa tribe, from the Changthang region are known to be the traditional producers of Pashmina Wool in the Ladakh region. Approximately 80–170 grams of the fiber is collected from each goat and spun to produce Cashmere. Throughout the winter season, the inner coat of the goat’s wool re-grows and becomes ready for extraction of wool in the next Spring.

It gets softer and more luxurious with each wash. Hand washing a new Pashmina is recommended to make sure that the natural vegetable dyes do not bleed any color. After washing it, leave it on a flat surface to dry.

  • Chanderi : Chanderi is a traditional ethnic fabric characterized by its lightweight, sheer texture and fine luxurious feel. Chanderi fabric is produced by weaving in silk and golden Zari in the traditional cotton yarn that results in the creation of the shimmering texture. The fabric borrowed its name from the small town Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh where traditional weavers practice the art of producing textured sarees in cotton and silk decorated with fine zari work.

This fabric can be classified into three types – Chanderi silk cotton, pure silk and Chanderi cotton.

Creation of unique buttis or motifs and the transparent or sheer texture of Chanderi fabric are the two prime characteristics that distinguishes it from other handloom fabrics.The buttis or motifs on Chanderi fabric are primarily hand woven on handloom, with the use of needles. Separate needles are used to create different motifs. Weavers coat these motifs with gold, silver as well as copper. Motifs created using chanderi weaving are inspired from nature and include Swans, gold coins, fruits, and heavenly bodies.From traditional motifs of flowers, peacock, lotus to modern geometric patterns, today one can find strikingly beautiful motifs like ‘Nalferma, ‘Dandidar, ‘Chatai’, ‘Jangla’, Mehndi wale haath’ etc. adorning the Chanderi fabrics.

The transparency of this fabric is because of the use of single Flature quality of yarn. When glue of a raw yarn is not separated from it, the non-degumming renders a shine and transparency to the finished fabric which produces a Flature yarn.

The sheer texture of Chanderi fabric needs special care. It’s advisable to dry clean Chanderi fabric to protect the fine Zari work. Dry in shade, avoid drying in direct sunlight.

  • Chanderi town is popularly known as one of the best handloom clusters in India

where Chanderi fabric was woven using handspun cotton warps and wefts. But the evolution of the fabric began in the 1890’s when weavers in the town of Chanderi replaced hand spun yarns with mill made yarns.

  • Moirang Phee : Moirang Phee is a textile fabric which has a specific design called the "MoirangPheejin" which is woven sequentially on both longitudinal edges of the fabric and oriented towards the center of the cloth, with cotton or silk threads.

The "MoirangPheejin" design, known in local language as Yarongphi ('ya' means "tooth", 'rong' means "long" and 'longba' means "pronged"), which is weaved over the Moirang Phee fabric is stated to represent the thin and pointed teeth of the "Pakhangba", the Pythonic god in Manipur mythology. This motif, arranged in varying steps, on the longitudinal border of the main fabric woven during the first stage, has a sharp edge at the top and is woven sequentially to give an aesthetic appearance to the fabric. The triangular shaped design elongates on odd numbers of steps (such as 3, 5, 9, 11 and so forth) towards the center of the cloth on which it is woven, and is parallel to weft threads. The count of the weft of cotton or silk yarn used varies from 2/40S to 2/80S. The fibre used to make the yarn is a derivative of “Lashing” (Cotton ball) and “Kabrang” (Mulberry cocoon). It is also extracted from the bark of the tree species, locally called as "Santhak" (Urtica sp.). The local fibre is spun into threads and then dyed using plants and bark. The dyed yarn is subject to sizing by applying starch made of rice, and then stretched across using a bamboo rod, which is followed by winding into a bobbin.

  • Moirang village where the Moirang Phee was initially made is a historical location in the Bishnupur District. It is the historic place where the INA flag was unfurled in 1944. The village is located 46 kilometres (29 mi) from Imphal, the capital of Manipur.

  • Puan : Puans are the traditional clothing of the native people of Mizoram. There are many kinds of Puans, and each colour, motif and design has a traditional and cultural significance to the Mizos. The weaving is done by women on the loin loom and the earnings empower them financially. Worn by both men and women, puan means cloth in the native language. Production clusters in Mizoram include Serchhip district (Thenzawl), and Aizawl district(Aizawl).

Woven predominantly on a loin loom, the puan is also occasionally woven on a frame loom or a Zo loom. The weaving in the loin loom is done in two parts, and the fabric is later stitched together. Frame handlooms produce single width fabrics.

The traditional way of wearing a puan is to wrap it around oneself from the waist to the ankle. The length of the puan is normally sixty to sixty-five inches. It takes a week or more to finish a plain puan, and a month or more for one with patterns, on a loin loom.

Patterns like ginger flower, stars, roses, tiger’s skin etc are traditional motifs and designs which are used in the weaving of Mizo puan. These motifs are traditionally and culturally significant to each tribe.

The yarn for weaving was cotton earlier, and has now been slowly replaced by acrylic yarn for its durability and attractive finish.

Dazzling with bright colors Puanchei has embroidery with artificial diamonds along its stripes also it has needle work and the embroidery showing arrowheads. Traditional designs consist of graceful Ngotekherh. Ngotekherh is generally a combination of pleasing colors which is common on sarongs as locally known as puan. It is made ready on loom.

  • Phulkari : Phulkari, which literally translates into ‘flower work’, has a history etched in the culture of Punjab. Spun from the charkha this spectacular style of embroidery is patterned on odinis, shawls, kurtis and chunris. The main characteristics of this embroidery are the use of darn stitch on the wrong side of cloth with colored silken thread.Thread by thread, each motif is created in a geometric grid, which is a peculiar technique for coming up with a curvilinear final output. Long and short darn stitch was put to clever use for creating horizontal, vertical and diagonal thread work, inspired by routine of the artists, flowers, and animals.

The motifs spun out of the untwisted floss of silk, which is known as the pat, are cleverly fitted within the grids, representing life in the hamlets of Punjab. Different Phulkari designs are reserved for different occasions. While Chope is a gift from the maternal uncle to the bride, the Wari da Bagh represents happiness.Similarly Chamba, Suber and Ghunghat Bagh all have a specific meaning and value attached. Pachranga and Satranga varieties are available in each of these types, which, basically means that the needlework used on most Phulkari works makes use of five or seven different colors of threads.

  • Chikankari Embroidery : The Lucknow Chikankari technique can be most easily broken down into 2 parts; the pre and post preparation stages and the 36 types of stitches that can be used in its embroidery phase. The basic 3 stage process of all Chikankari work is:

1. Block Printing

This is the initial phase where the design is made on the cloth of choice. The cloth is cut according to the garment it will form and using multiple wooden block stamps, designs are imprinted in blue ink onto the fabric.

2. Embroidery

This fabric is then set within a small frame, part by part, as the needle work begins to trace the ink printed patterns. The type of stitch an artisan chooses depends on the specialty of the region and the type and size of motifs.

3. Washing

Once the embroidery work is complete, the fabric is soaked in water to remove the pattern outlines. After this it is starched to obtain the right stiffness depending on the fabric.

Usually there is a combination of different Lucknow Chikankari stitches used within one whole pattern. These include: Makra, Kaudi, Hatkadi, Sazi, Karan, Kapkapi, Dhania-patti, Jora, Bulbul and many more. There are also 10 principle stitches made from raw skeins of thread:

4. Jali: A specialty of Lucknow; this technique uses minute buttonhole stitches with a wide blunt needle to make a Jali or net where the thread is never drawn through the fabric, making it impossible to distinguish the front from its back side.

5. Tepchi: This is a long running stitch that is weaved on the right-hand side of the fabric and forms the outline of a motif.

6. Murri: This is a minute rice shaped design used in minimalistic and intricate patterns.

7. Bakhiya: Also called shadow stitching; here, the thread work is done on the back side in order for its outline and tint of color to be seen on the front side of the fabric.

8. Zanzeera: This is a chain stitch made to design the outline of leaves and petals especially when they are connected within their pattern.

9. Hool: This is a detached eyelet stitch used to design the heart of the flower.

10. Phanda: Millet shaped stitches; these are used to make vines of flowers and grapes.

11.Rahat: This is mostly a single stitch technique used to create plant stem designs, however can also contain a double stitch using the Bakhiya technique.

12. Keel Kangan: This stitch is mainly used to adorn floral motifs and petals.

13. Khatua: Considered a finer form of Bakhiya and used for flowers and paisleys, the motif is first weaved on a calico and then placed on the main fabric.

Originally Chikan work was done on Muslin or sheer cotton cloth with white thread. Over time, more colors have been incorporated including pastels and fluorescents. The fabrics used for this craft must be soft as hand stitching is required. They include: Silk, Chiffon, Georgette, Net, Voile, Kota, Doriya, Organza, Cotton and faux fabrics.

There is a tremendous variety of garments that come adorned with this type of work, for men as well as women. Lucknow Chikan embroidery has ebbed and flowed since its initial formal establishment. Its golden years in the period of Mughals and Nawabs were followed by a major downfall in later years during the British Rule

Lucknow Chikan embroidery should ideally be dry cleaned, though this depends more on the fabric than the work. Some fabrics, such as silk, need to be dry cleaned but others, like cotton, can be hand washed.

  • Banarasi Silk : It is a fine variant of Silk originating from the city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. Saree woven from this fine silk, known as a Banarasi Silk Saree is extremely popular all over India and across the world.

With a mention in the Mahabharata and in the Buddhist scriptures in the first millennium, Banarasi silk has its roots seeped into the rich cultural history of India. Originally crafted exclusively for the royalty, each Banarasi sari was created from real gold and silver threads, taking as much as a year to make.

In the present days, Banarasi silk sarees are still considered to be one of finest traditional saris. It has actually been well known for its designing and gold as well as silver brocade or the ‘Zari‘. The special characteristics of these sarees are their designs, which are Mughal inspired. Very often, it has been decorated with intricate floral as well as foliate designs.

Moreover, you may also find a string of upright leaves, which are called ‘Jhallar’. The idiosyncratic features of these Banarasi silk sarees include heavy working of gold, small detailed figures, metal visual effects and compact weaving as well.

At Least three craftsmen work together to make up one sari by using the power-loom. One artisan has to weave the silk and one has to dye the silk, where the other one has to engage the bundle of silk, which creates the power ring.

The designs are drawn previously on graph paper. It has been imprinted as a patter for the punch-cards. During the complete weaving procedure, this will be used as a guide for threads.The artisans may take fifteen days to six months for creating the sari, which exclusively depends on the intricateness of the design. If you wish to get a Banarasi sari made exclusively with royal designs, the artisans may even take one year to accomplish that.

The Banarasi silk industry has been facing quite a competition from the machine made factories who produce Sarees at a much faster rate resulting in huge losses for the workers who make these handmade Sarees. However, in 2009, the weaver association of Uttar Pradesh secured a copyright of sorts for the Banaras brocades as well as saris.

It stated that sari or brocade coming from outside the six identified districts (Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Bhadohi, Mirzapur, Chandauli and Varanasi) will not be eligible for selling under names of Banarasi sari and silks. These traditional and beautiful Banarasi sarees are now recreating a new platform. Even five star hotels and resorts are now being decorated with Banarasi silks. In addition, Bollywood films and popular TV serials are also using the traditional Banarasi sarees for picturing the wedding and festive scenarios. Silk for the Banarasi saris that used to come from China once is now procured South India (chiefly Bangalore).

After passing the copyright rule of the traditional Banarasi silk sarees , the value chain of this industry is climbing up. In addition to that, innovations in this particular field are coming up as well.

Newer designs using Banarasi silks are being made up, though those have not yet become popular like the traditional ones. The innovative utilization of Banarasi silk in the Indian mainstream fashion has strongly prejudiced the scenario, which we are currently watching. Moreover, those alterations and innovations are adding up for changing the big picture.


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