Kutch ka Kala cotton: Is the ‘Old world’ cotton making a comeback?
Kala cotton is also known as the ‘old world’ cotton, is an indigenous species found in the district of Kutch situated in Gujarat. As misleading as the name may sound, the Kala in Kala cotton doesn’t stand for black colour. It refers to the empty boll after the extraction of the cotton fibre. It is purely organic as no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used during its cultivation time. Due to its high tolerance to both diseases and pests, this plant is very rugged and florid. It is wholly rain-fed compared to large scale industrialized cotton production, and since it can withstand rough land and weather condition, it requires minimal investment. It is among the most carbon-neutral and energy-efficient crop as its ecological footprint is lower than the other cotton species. Due to its short staple length, the fibre only measures 20 and 22 mm, resulting in its coarse texture and thicker fibres. It can only be handspun and handwoven for its production process, and the plain weave is the only option as a specific loom set-up is necessary for the weaving process.
The history of Kala cotton
Back around the time of Indian independence, the Kala cotton got dismissed as low-quality due to its coarse texture and short-staple length. During the time of colonization, it was a significant part of the cotton export to Britain. Around the same time, American cotton was more in demand for the no. of benefits to it, one being that it was easy to harvest it due to its big ball size as it was easy to pick. The second was the longer staple- length because of which it was less prone to breaking and was easy to weave. Due to the introduction of the new cotton variety and increasing demand from the market, the farmers switched to the American breed. Also, the British government banned the import of Indian cotton textiles to Britain. As a result, the Indian cotton manufacturing industry took a big hit and got destroyed by the end of the 19th century.
Kala cotton: In today’s fashion (clothes and lifestyle products)
Thanks to the rising popularity of sustainability and consciousness about organic cotton clothes in the present market, Kala cotton made a comeback. In 2007 Khamir, an NGO that provides a platform for promotion and sustenance of traditional crafts and practices, along with Satvik, an organization of organic farmers, launched the Kala cotton initiative. After continuous research and consultations with the textile experts, they fine-tuned it to a more durable form. The whole process is manual, for which they employ artisans of marginalized communities like ginners, spinners and weavers. It is easy to predict whether the fabric is for top wear or bottom wear by the number of count threads. The fabrics’ coarseness and texture give it a very raw appeal, and the dyeing effect of Indigo on Kala cotton is much better than the regular cotton. As the demand for Kala cotton has increased, more farmers are turning to Kala cotton. More younger generation designers are employing Kala cotton in their fashion collection. The usage of Kala cotton fabric is not limited to only clothing but also other categories like home furnishings, interiors and accessories.
Kala cotton for the future
Kala cotton is the most organic crop for it is a purely rain-fed crop it doesn’t require too much water, which reduces water usage and also since it is so sturdy, it doesn’t require pesticides and chemical fertilizers, it reduces land pollution and improves soil quality. It doesn’t require drip irrigation which helps with the water level depletion. The continuous usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is harmful to the farmers who work with these for a long time as these chemicals start affecting their bodies slowly. It promotes and sustains the livelihood of farmers and artisans from the marginalized community and promotes healthy eco-living. Therefore, Kala cotton is much more favorable for the long run as it promotes better working conditions and provides a chemical-free environment for the farmers.
At Dhoonki we use kala cotton and other natural bio-fabrics to make all the beautiful dresses for you. Everything if needed is colored using azo free or natural dyes only. The silhouettes are thoughtfully chosen to complement the kala cotton properties to provide maximum comfort and best breathability to your skin. We promise to take our clothes back through our ‘Conscious Wardrobe Program’ ensuring you are encouraged enough to support us in reducing the fashion wastes. Dhoonki is a Conscious and ethical clothing brand from MU-SH Fashions.