Look Inside

Volume 67 Number 4, June-September 2016

Volume 67 Number 4

Cloth and India: 1947-2015
Edited by: Mayank Mansingh Kaul

Editorial Note
Monisha Ahmed

Towards Recent Histories of Indian Textiles
Mayank Mansingh Kaul

Shaping Textile Futures: Those Who Led the Way
Ritu Sethi

Revivalism and Revivalists
Laila Tyabji

Textiles in India: Fashioning the Contemporary
Mayank Mansingh Kaul and Meher Varma

The Enduring Sari and Its Metamorphosis
Sujata Assomull

Jasleen Dhamija, Jyotindra Jain, Ritu Kumar and Rahul Jain in conversation with Monisha Ahmed and Mayank Mansingh Kaul

Recipes for Re-enchantment: Natural Dyes and Dyeing
Aarti Kawlra

Trends in Embroidery
Vandana Bhandari

The Loom as Ideology: Suraiya Apa’s Legacy
Radhika Singh

Jadunath Supakar and Design Revival in Banaras Brocades
Anjan Chakraverty

Book Reviews
Block Printed Textiles of India, by Eiluned Edwards
Pramod Kumar K.G.

Unfolding – Contemporary Indian Textiles, by Maggie Baxter
Monisha Ahmed


The thematic advertisement portfolio on the inside cover and pages 1–7 features Chizami Weaves of Nagaland and the North East Network.

Thematic Ad-portfolio: Chizami Weaves of Nagaland and the North East Network
Mansingh Kaul, Mayank
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, 3 unnumbered + pp. 1–9

This article focusses on NEN, an NGO based out of Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland which attempts to socially empower the women of these regions, helping them earn their living and keep alive their culture through weaving and millet-based farming.

Editorial Note
Ahmed, Monisha
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, p. 10

The story of contemporary Indian textiles is less well known with most recent histories beginning the narrative in the 1940s with Mahatma Gandhi and khadi. While the legacy of khadi continues, textiles in the country have emerged in diverse ways since. it is these developments that are explored in this thematic issue, looking at the role of key personalities and institutions, the influence of design and the current relationship with the fashion industry. The emphasis is on handmade. With this issue Monisha Ahmed signs out as Associate Editor.

Towards Recent Histories of Indian Textiles
Mansingh Kaul, Mayank
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 12-21

Contrary to popular assumptions, textiles are not just about superficial aesthetics and appearances. They are integrally tied to entire ways of life, and influence and reflect community identities, political ideologies and larger socio-cultural and economic forces that shape a country’s history. Nowhere is this more true than in India and this article provides an overview of the many dichotomies and synergies that have determined the trajectory of Indian handmade textiles, dating from the period of the freedom struggle to the present-day fashion industry. Native khadi vs European Art Deco, rural craftsperson vs urban designer, handwoven vs machine produced, government enterprises vs private initiatives—these are among the various debates that come alive in this article.

Shaping Textile Futures: Those Who Led the Way
Sethi, Ritu
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 22-31

The early decades in post-Independence India witnessed a great impetus towards the development and popularization of the indigenous handloom and handicrafts industries. This article highlights the efforts of important personalities and private and state-funded enterprises that helped shape the textiles market into the form in which it exists today. Among those mentioned are revivalists like Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Pupul Jayakar, Nelly Sethna, Suraiya Bose, Ali Hasan and Shyam Ahuja. There is also a reference to design institutes like NID, NGOs like Dastkar, government sponsored exhibitions like Vishwakarma and emporiums like the Central Cottage Industries that provided education and support for weavers and craftspeople; merged traditional methods with new product development and expanded the local and global reach of Indian textiles.

Revivalism and Revivalists
Tyabji, Laila
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 32-41

While the craft and handloom development sector is an important player within the Indian economy, it has for the longest time not been given the attention and assistance it deserves. Surveying the work of policy makers and NGOs within this field, this article looks into the problems plaguing the industry and the solutions that may be sought within it. There is a focus on the social and aesthetic concerns that need to govern revivalist efforts in craft. The critical issues include—tradition vs innovation; the demand for better artisanal training and marketing; the rights of craftspeople vs the tastes of customers; pure design vs functionality. The work of Sewa in Lucknow and Banaskantha and Dastkar in Ranthambhore and Tezpur throw light on the way in which craft may be transformed into a platform for sustainable employment and income generation that empowers local communities and encourages national pride and growth.

Textiles in India: Fashioning the Contemporary
Mansingh Kaul, Mayank and Varma, Meher
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 42-51

In recent years, the Indian fashion industry has seen a growing number of innovations and experimentations with handmade textiles. This article examines these modern trends and traces their origins to the 1980s and 1990s when the industry was less organized and formalized. It looks at the factors that helped generate an easy access to and taste for such kinds of fabric and fusion designs. Besides handloom, it also explores the influence of traditional craft techniques as well as pop art and street culture in the contemporary local and global fashion landscape. Overall, these developments reflect the changing philosophies and aesthetics that guide new-age designers in the way they define their identities and their work.

The Enduring Sari and Its Metamorphosis
Assomull, Sujata
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 52-59

The sari is a truly versatile garment, retaining its ties with tradition while evolving with the times. This article looks at the recent history of the sari, focussing on how it has been reinvented by many modern designers. It analyses the revival of handwoven varieties as well as the growing popularity of the pre-stitched versions. The sari is seen as a celebration of feminity but is also refashioned as an androgynous outfit. Even as it reinforces an Indian identity, it is being transformed to look more like the Western gown. Energized by all these changes, the sari continues to firmly hold its place within the fashion industry and popular imagination, generating business for the bridal-wear market, attracting collaborations from international fashion houses and inspiring modern day social media campaigns.

Conversations: Jasleen Dhamija, Jyotindra Jain, Ritu Kumar and Rahul Jain
Ahmed, Monisha and Mansingh Kaul, Mayank
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 60-77

This conversations piece brings together different voices from the field of crafts revival in India. It includes personalities who have worked as scholars, curators, policy-makers and designers within this sector. Jasleen Dhamija recounts the early years and struggles of working with the government on projects related to handloom and handcraftsmanship. Jyotindra Jain shares his experiences of working with museums and educational institutions related to arts and crafts training and displays. And Ritu Kumar and Rahul Jain discuss their attempts to try and integrate traditional designs into modern day fashion and exhibitions. Although they come with varying perspectives, these individuals are bound by their commitment to supporting and promoting India’s textile heritage.

Recipes for Re-enchantment: Natural Dyes and Dyeing
Kawlra, Aarti
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 78-87

The phase of discovery, disclosure and demand for natural dyes appears to be at its apogee in India today. How did the call for swadeshi in the freedom struggle re-enchant the practice of natural dyeing in independent India? Who were the interlocutors and how did they counter the ascension of synthesized dyes? What has been the afterlife of these experiments? This article is an invitation to reflect upon the lineage of swadeshi that underpins these efforts. It recalls the principles of mastery sacralized in early attempts to resist the onslaught of chemical dyes and revive traditions of natural dyes and dyeing. Many of these endeavours continue to find voice via the circulation of vegetable-dyed cloth through niche markets and global fashion today, including the prism of ‘sustainable’ consumption, and trends of ‘ethical’ sourcing from small producers. The focus then is on the spaces that dot the contemporary craftscape of the country which keep alive the art of natural dyes through meaningful collaborations between artists, artisans and designers.

Trends in Embroidery
Bhandari, Vandana
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 88-95

Drawing on the myriad surface embellishment traditions that exist in different parts of the country, embroideries have become a staple of Indian fashion and textile cultures. The article traces the changing uses and techniques of this form of art, looking at specific regions and personalities that have contributed to or benefited from it. From NGOs working with rural craftspeople to artisans becoming artists in their own right, many interesting case studies and stories come into view. Even as the arrival of industry and machine-made businesses is seen as a threat, the article also recognizes the profits to be gained from this commercialization and the ways in which designers can bring hand-stitched and machine-made processes together to create genuinely innovative works.

The Loom as Ideology: Suraiya Apa’s Legacy
Singh, Radhika
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 96-101

This focus feature introduces us to the dynamic world of Suraiya Hasan Bose, a leading figure in the textile and crafts revival movement in India. Brought up on the ideals of swadeshi nationalism, Suraiya built up the Cottage Industries Emporium her father had set up in Hyderabad and today heads a flourishing production centre and shop devoted to promoting the dying art of himru. The article looks at the influences that shaped Suraiya’s training in the field, her collaborations with government and private intiatives and her efforts to transform the traditions of ikat, kalamkari, himru and dhurries into fashionable and profitable modern-day ventures. What stands out above all else is her close bonds with the weavers and artisans who work with her and her personal commitment towards developing crafts as a larger means of social welfare.

Jadunath Supakar and Design Revival in Banaras Brocades
Chakraverty, Anjan
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 102-109

Banaras is currently one of the major sites of handloom revival in India and has inspired many a contemporary fashion designer. This article though chooses to shift focus from these recent developments to highlight some of the older craft experiments initiated here by Jadunath Supakar in the 1960s and 70s. It looks closely at the changes that he brought about in the patterning of naksha and Banaras brocades. It refers to his exposure to the designs of Nandalal Bose’s Santiniketan School of Art and his contact with important revivalists like Pupul Jayakar and Martand Singh. It also highlights his collaborations with local weavers and nakshaband experts like Ali Hassan and Abul Mohasin. Although this was a short-lived revival, it nonetheless makes for an interesting case study within the framework of India’s textile histories.

Book Reviews
Vol. 67 No. 4, June-September 2016, pp. 110-112

Block Printed Textiles of India: Imprints of Culture by Eiluned Edwards, reviewed by Pramod Kumar K.G.; Unfolding: Contemporary Indian Textiles by Maggie Baxter, reviewed by Monisha Ahmed.