Mahatma Gandhi

Khadi: The Heritage Fabric Weaving Freedom, Sovereignty and Unity

Kaeli Renae9/3/2021

Khadi, the heritage fabric woven through many of our sustainable WVN collections, is more than a textile. It is an icon for freedom, sovereignty, and unity, with ancient roots.

Khadi has a rich history that dates as far back as 3300 BC , when cotton weaving began in India. Traditionally khadi has been made with cotton, wool, and silk, in a beautiful and unique process of weaving the fibers together to create fabric.

The process involves first harvesting natural fibers, then hand spinning the threads, and finally weaving the threads into fabric. The process has not changed over time. It is still just as slow, methodical and hand-crafted as it ever was.


(© Memories Over Mocha /Adobe Stock)

Cotton-weaving in India dates back as far as 3300 - 1600 BCE. Archaeologists have excavated many artifacts that showcase India’s flourishing textile industry, including shreds of cotton and bones used for weaving. Sacred texts give us the first written accounts of cotton, describing women weaving cotton in northern India.

India has a long and rich history with its connection to cotton. India became one of the world’s biggest cotton suppliers in the time of Alexander the Great, around 326 BCE when India began trading cotton throughout Asia and Europe. Their power as a world cotton supplier led to The British Empire trying to control India’s cotton trade, as it was an important commodity.

Thayer Top

In the 1700’s, France and England banned the import of imported cotton and introduced cheap European fabrics into the Indian market while textile mills began to be introduced.

This resulted in millions of people losing their hand-weaving jobs to mass factory production. In the mid-1800s, local fabric producers were cut out of the trade to make room for British products, which were much cheaper, and had a human cost of taking jobs and trade away from makers and suppliers.

The Swadeshi Movement

As many lost their jobs in the handloom sector, it gave rise to the The Swadeshi Movement. In an effort to free themselves from the British Empire people in India began to boycott foreign products. This was the platform that Gandhi stood on, while he praised the significance and importance of reviving Khadi in India.

Gandhi and Khadi

To Gandhi, Khadi was so much more than a fabric. He knew it could be grown and woven by hand by one person in their own home, and not in a factory. It represented the potential for unifying classes, for sovereignty and freedom, reviving local economies, and shifting from. poverty into self-sufficiency.

Gandhi began motivating people to reclaim their heritage trade and he inspired the masses to harvest the cotton and gather the supplies needed to make their own yarn. He asked everyone to dedicate time to spinning Khadi daily. Previously worn by peasants, Khadi connected the classes as weavers and wearers alike bridging many diverse backgrounds. The movement united people to weave a new, brighter future - together. Gandhi chose to wear simple and modest clothing, whether to meet a king or a local villager.


(Courtesy of Anuprerna Atelier)

He made a fashion statement that is still iconic in his photos. Even though he came from a powerful well off family, his humble approach to fashion sent a strong message that he was united with all people of all classes and backgrounds. He met with British royalty humbly wrapped in his simple Khadi fabrics, instead of glistening with the finest silks and fabrics. In essence, he used fashion as a powerful political statement to advocate for all people. He chose to wear only homespun clothing in an effort to bring the classes together and promote self-reliance and autonomy for India. A part of Gandhi’s legacy is that today India still remains the world’s largest democracy.

The continuation of fabricating Khadi honors this monumental time in India’s history.

The Sustainable Nature of Khadi

Khadi is sustainable and biodegradable in nature. There are no factories or emissions necessary to make Khadi and it has remained a locally handwoven trade. The few elements that make up Khadi - handspinning the yarn at spinning wheels (Charkas), growing the fibers locally and handweaving the fabric make Khadi sustainable.

“Khadi mentality means decentralization of the production and distribution of the necessities of life.”

WVN with Khadi

We are grateful to continue Gandhi’s legacy by honoring the ancient roots in our modern WVN collection.

How did this significant fabric become a beloved staple in the WVN collection?

It started many years ago, when our founder Kate Fisher began traveling to India in her early 20’s, after taking a break from her college studies. As a New York City girl, she loved visiting New Delhi, with its cosmopolitan energy and cultural offerings that included visiting markets filled to the brim with gorgeous textiles and goods. It was there while standing at the crossroads of New Delhi that she found Khadi, and learned of its connection to Gandhi’s movement and fell in love with it as a fabric and an idea. She went on to purchase Khadi fabric and have it tailored into clothing for herself.

Bailey Top

Fast forward to 2019, after Kate had established a thriving sustainable line, Synergy Organic, and was in the creative process of bringing WVN to life. Inspired by their rich history and her personal connection to the fabrics, Kate headed to Jaipur in search of organic Khadi and block print fabrics to make into the collections you see today. We are grateful to continue Gandhi’s legacy by honoring its ancient roots in our modern collection.

Shop our Khadi pieces here.

“If we have the 'Khadi spirit' in us, we would surround ourselves with simplicity in every walk of life.”