In late 2013, we started formulating a lifestyle brand that needed to be accessible, ethical and eco-friendly. And while it had it’s heart in the right place, it also needed to fill in a crucial gap in the market place to stay relevant and be successful as a business model. We went through many new age novelty fabrics which are eco-friendly and had a lot of potential but they really missed on the emotional quotient.
That is when we started questioning our ‘basics’ about who we really are, our legacy in textiles, searching for a fabric that was truly humane in nature. We silently looked at each other and “the-fabric-that-shall-not-be-named” (according to KVIC) we screamed, our first love since we started learning textiles. A fabric that has an entire nation’s struggle for independence woven into it and a revolution that is deeply spun into its yarn.
Hence, Cotton Rack was born, a grounded and socially responsible ethical lifestyle brand with simplicity at its core, of which, ‘the-fabric-that-shall-not-be-named’ has been a symbol for all this while. A contemporary take, that satisfies our modern needs without losing the traditional essence. A brand that brings back the original glory that ‘the-fabric-that-shall-not-be-named’ truly deserves by aspiring the young again. And all of this while bringing a change to lives of the maker, the wearer and the environment.
Rameshwari Kaul – linkedin
Rameshwari, a textile design graduate from NIIFT, Mohali & a post graduate from NIFT, New Delhi, has extensive experience in working with craft clusters & Handicrafts. She has worked with KVIC, Directorate of Handlooms and also worked as a buyer with a leading Indian ethnic wear brand. She confesses by ‘the-fabric-that-shall-not-be-named’ & wants to make it global. She is a Co-founder, presently handles designing, production & quality.
Vinayak Sharma – linkedin
Vinayak is a NIFT, New Delhi graduate in fashion designing. He has worked for a premium smart casual menswear brand as a menswear designer. He is a Co-founder & his job is to make sure the brand remains visible & reaches wider audience using sales & marketing tools. He is currently working on bringing in more products under the Cotton Rack fold.
From Sunny Narang’s Facebook Posts :
21st June, 2018
#Interwoven #UpdatesFromHandmadeWorld#CraftsHandlooms #OrganicFarming#DesignForSustainability #CottonRack
I met these two undernourished kids from Design School first in a Chennai exhibition selling Khadi clothing. Then as always destiny plans its own random meetings, a common friend got me to meet these two again, as they were exploring some support funding to develop a contemporary range of khadi sarees, handwoven in Bengal.
They both are based in Jaipur, one a Kashmiri, other a Haryanvi, and both look like they think too much, feel too much passion for what they do, to have time to eat.
So I did support them, as long as they gave me 2 sarees as interest when the project was over.
Now since they feel so strongly for the Craft, Handloom, Khadi, the general handmade sector and all who work in that space, they have started a Facebook News Updates with the Good, Bad and the Ugly News and Reports and the Agony and the Ecstasy of being a part of it.
I found it quite interesting, and anyone out there who is interested can comment, share stuff with them on the rooted soul processes of India or anywhere and the people who sustain them.
Just as there are New Castes of Nerds and Entrepreneurs, Activists and Politicians, Academics and Mediapeople, there are Old and New Castes of the Handmaking People.
This page celebrates them, shares their issues, possibilities and passions.
Vinayak : ‘Question the basics’ has always been a part of my design philosophy. While the Indian subcontinent is synonymous with colours, textures and embroideries, I always wanted to create a modern design language which was uncluttered and clean. My experience as a premium menswear designer gave me insights required for the task and combined with our love for khadi, we knew what we had to do.
Rameshwari : I have always been enamored with the ecosystem of handicraft artisans. Unlike the fast paced, urban dwellers, these people are content with their life, have a strong emotional connect with their community and know how to take, create and give back to the nature. What they lack is fair remuneration for their work. And this worked as a foundation stone for our brand. To create an ethical lifestyle brand with homespun/ handspun fabric at its roots.
Cotton Rack was started in 2014 with deep desire to connect to the roots in a space which is crammed with fast fashion, unsustainable business practices and unfair wages. Our aim is to build a brand which works closely with rural artisans in creating authentic handcrafted lifestyle products. Our womenswear and menswear apparel are made from homespun, handwoven fabrics by tailors who are paid higher than the industry average and packed in bags made from left over fabrics. We believe in not only adding value to fabric but also to the lives of the wearer, the weaver and the environment.
30th May, 2018
Great to see contemporary interpretations of sarees in handspun handwoven delicate pure cotton yarn.
In subtle shades with open spaces and bold lines, but still the Indian texturing of slub and thread as its foundation.
This is saree design, traveling globally, culture to culture, a yardage that can be worn in a 1000 different ways, any where.
Hand made and Designed in India by Indians is what I believe in. That carries the true spirit of Khadi.
Congratulations to Rameshwari Kaul and Vinayak for a lovely collection .
Hoping it finds its lovers across all borders .
Have been happy to be a co-traveler, mentor on this journey with them.
23rd December, 2017
#IntroducingFolds #ByCottonRack #A21stCentury #KhadiStory #SarisForAWorldWithoutBorders
As many of you know, I have had a long love of Indian crafts and textiles, supporting artisan entrepreneurship long before the word start-up became fashionable.
I have never really believed that either the state or the NGO can be a sustainable creative model for artisan tradition recovery.
Between skills that have been passed on for centuries within families and communities and the post-modern designer, we now need many hybrids, that respect each other’s skills and imagination to reinvent traditions, but with their spirit of harmony and grace.
I have been following Cotton Rack for a couple of years, but it took Antima Khanna, a common friend to introduce them to the L’Enfant Terrible for Purists of Craft aka Sunny Narang aka me.
As someone who has worked with graphic designers, illustrators to reinvent hand block prints and the sari with thobby Dabu aka Mud-Resist designs this time I have supported the classic simple Zen-like weaves of Cotton Rack, as the times are in need of a softness in tone, a delicacy that brings a beauty with lightness.
They inaugurate their collection today at the third edition of The India Story at Swabhumi in Kolkata. ( The India Story )
Visit them at the stall UZ- 11 , 21st to 24th December. Then they go to Hyderabad, Telangana .
I love the act of seeing new creative passions, emerge, and together with imagination and persistence, collaboration and God’s grace hope to see them grow into old bargads !
3rd June, 2016
When Film came people thought theatre would die.
When TV came people believed that Film would die.
Nowadays people talk about how TV and Film both may be killed by streaming digital.
Nothing of the sort has happened .
Theatre is now many things. Stand-Up Comedy, Spoken-Word Poetry, Broadway still rules. As does Off-Broadway.
That which has deep human value, and texture will sustain.
Theatre is about the real nature of community. Face to Face .
Film has the power of the collective dream that TV can never have.
TV has family and friends, Digital is each on his own.
Everything finds its space. That is Pluralism.
Every new idea or ideology thinks it will rule the planet.
It even may , for a few years. But then everything else adapts.
We have been hearing the death-knell of Khadi since the times of Gandhi (yes the old lathi-wielding man ).
It never happened.
For it breathes.
I have Ponduru Khadi shirts, one of the finest Khadi woven in India in Andhra, and I will keep buying it all my life. And it is cheaper than any imported brand, as well as any premium Indian brand.
For me I will pay premium for the best Indian artisan skill, than any machine-made brand.
Most of my shirts are handloom or Khadi. Or hand-printed. Or screen-printed .
And there are many people like me.
Both are designers, who have done jobs in mainstream brands and then decided to do-their-own-stuff .
Now India has a whole range of stores and exhibitions in all its major cities to share this effort, along with specialised online marketplaces.
Great to see new waves and winds in Khadi .
And obviously in Either Or, the store that brought craft , design with warmth and pizzazz 17 years ago to Pune.
29th February, 2016
“Khadis are beautiful fabrics to work with, they are like all-rounders, you can always find the right version of Khadi for the occasion. Regarding treating them, there are always some minor glitches since it’s handmade, but in our personal use we rough them up till it tears apart, and Khadi takes a lot of time in coming apart.
Our usage funda is simple- ‘Wear untill it tears’
Antima Khanna, the writer of this blog, is the corporate finance head of a sports management company which is part of our incubator. She is a ‘maker’ herself of crafts and is a photographer, besides blogging.
Both Rameshawari and Vinayak are NIFT alumni and passionate about re-creating and re-designing a new image for Khadi .
There is something about this hand-spun and hand-woven that sustains in this land despite all the technology innovations on the planet.
Khadi is the First Cotton Textile of humanity, and in the 21st century it holds the imagination of the young , who are creating fabrics and garments that can entice the young, so a timeless tradition sustains, not as an heirloom but as a daily process of wearing and tearing !
Both Rameshwari and Vinayak have worked in mainstream industry and are an example of creative possibilities via entrepreneurship, young carry on discovering, while also imagining a better future for India’s rural industries.
And they both have begun, beautifully.
To explore Khadi with grace, lightness and aesthetic .
To reinvigorate the yarn and fabric that like Saraswati is a tiny trickle among the much larger rivers, which too are mostly polluted !
I have always found such young way more wise and constructive, than the ones who live dharna to dharna, which is a full-time profession in our country’s ‘protest-industry’.
The Khadi Kurta and Jhola had become the standard uniform of the activist and politician and we have seen the process and product of Khadi being defiled by mal-intent.
Mahatma Gandhi always warned against the full-time professional politician or activist , and that is why he occupied himself in hand-spinning yarn all the while.
“The livery of freedom” – Mahatma Gandhi
Khadi, refers to hand-spun and hand-woven cloth. The raw materials may be cotton, silk, or wool, which are spun into threads on a Charkha (A traditional spinning implement).
Khadi was launched in 1920 as a political weapon in the Swadeshi movement of Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi soon realised that professional politicians and he could never be on the same page .
In 1934, Gandhi resigned from the Indian National Congress over his differences with other leaders on the purity of ends and means. He established the All India Village Industries Association at Wardha and devoted most of his time towards reorganisation of Indian villages.
Gandhi started experiments in rural life-style such as revival of village crafts and agro processing industries, village cleanliness, diet reforms, etc., so that villages could be developed as ideal surroundings to live in. He concentrated on the removal of untouchability also.
Before moving to Sevagram village in April 1936, Gandhi had started experiments in various industries at Wardha.
He trained many workers in rural reconstruction work such as making Neera from palm trees, jaggery, etc. and in diary, leather work, pottery, oil pressing, bee-keeping etc. He shifted the headquarters of All India Spinners’ Association to Sevagram.
In Sevagram Ashram Neera was served every morning. Gandhi believed that hand spinning hand weaving i.e. Khadi cloth was the hub around which all the village industries could prosper. With this solar like system, he thought he could rebuild and preserve the Indian village culture.
Since 1936 till his last, Sevagram Ashram remained his headquarters.
Gandhi thought deeply on Capitalism and Communism and thought up of Sarvodaya, a decentralized production and economic system, way before indep endence in 1947
How to build an economic system which does not give room for exploitation of one by the other? We have seen that it is the unbridled play of profit motive of the privileged classes that leads to exploitation is of the under privileged.
Such a situation exists in a capitalistic economy where the individual’s profit motive is allowed a free play and he is given every opportunity to exploit all situations to his gain even to the extent of injuring the very society he lives in.
In trying to stem this rot, the communistic ideology swings the pendulum to the other end by curbing the profit motive of the individual to such an extent that the person loses his individuality and initiative altogether and becomes yet another cogwheel in the machine. We have seen this system also crumble.
The vey ‘proletariat’ for whose benefit the communist philosophy was supposed to have taken birth, rose in revolt against it, because the individual, his aspiration and values were lost sight of.
For Gandhi “No society can be built on a denial of individual freedom.”
Gandhi suggested the third alternative, the ‘Sarvodaya’ social order, which believes “that every individual has a personality which when properly developed, has a contribution to make to society.”
In the economic field “decentralized commodity production ensures the producer the product of his labour.” Where the producer is ensured of the fruits of his labour, there is no exploitation and there is no violence.