Kala cotton farmers and heritage crafts

Our trip to India, tracing our supply chain kicked off with 3 incredible days with one of our suppliers – Khamir -who are based in Bhuj. Khamir is an NGO that supports the local heritage crafts such as spinning and weaving as well as working with the farmers of Kala cotton. Located in the desert region of Kutch, this area has a rich tradition of farming and traditional crafts, all of which Khamir are working hard to keep alive and relevant in today’s market.
kala cotton country

An early morning ride from the rail station to Khamir.
Photo: Henrietta Adams

This indigenous drought resistance cotton is a miracle to come across

On visiting we stayed at the Khamir site, a place which immediately felt like home. a calm, tranquil complex that gives off an unforgettably peaceful energy, it’s set up not only as the headquarters but also as an off-the-beaten-track destination. Anyone is invited to stay at Khamir, visit the surrounding craft villages, take meals with staff and other guests which could include designers, researchers, buyers, classes of school children. We were lucky enough to time our trip with the Kala cotton exhibition – such a helpful start before visiting the cotton fields themselves. Taken under the wing of Aziz, the production manager, we visited local craft towns, Kala cotton farms, and the homes of spinners and weavers. With the cotton market in India now weighted to 95% genetically modified seeds, this indigenous drought resistant cotton is a miracle to come across.
Chai on the roadside

Enjoying a cup of masala chai on the roadside.

kala cotton farmers

Kala cotton farmers.
Photo: Henrietta Adams

Travelling from London,  this arid landscape felt otherworldly, as if time had stood still. Technological developments have yet to touch the communities we visited, helping to preserve the traditional skill base and heritage trade of the area. Having been farmed in the regions for 7000 years, Kala cotton is resilient to the climate as well as the local pests that threaten to destroy crops. The field we visited had grown from no rainfall at all and would yield enough fibre for 9,100m of fabric. Since the introduction of BT cotton most indigenous varieties have been all but lost, but it is these varieties that understand the land and work with the climate, not against it. As one farmer put it, ‘Kala cotton is as old as the land is here’, and its reliability and capability to grow even through a drought shows its resilience.
kala cotton pods

With the cotton market in India now weighted to 95% genetically modified seeds, this indigenous drought resistant crop is a miracle to come across.

Weaving: A complex and time consuming process

We were also lucky enough to visit the spinners and weavers who work from their homes, sometimes with three generations under one roof sharing their expertise and the skills of their trade to the younger generation. We were completely blown away with the unbelievably complex and time consuming process of weaving. Again coming from London where everything should ideally be done yesterday, it was jaw dropping to see the meticulous efforts and patience that goes into producing this hand made fabric. the weave designs we saw were stunning and are also crafted using vegetable dyes. I am so excited to design shirts (and more!) using this fabric.
weaving kala cotton

“It was jaw dropping to see the meticulous efforts and patience that goes into producing this handmade fabric”.
Photo: Henrietta Adams

skilled in crafts

We loved seeing the handiwork of this talented lady from the weaver family we visited. She was shyly standing in the background until her family showed us her beautiful patchwork and hand embroidery work. The piece she showed us had taken a year to make and is the pride and joy furnishing of the family home.
Photo: Henrietta Adams

Having visited Khamir I personally feel a deep connection to this fabric. From its history and ability to grow economically without rainfall to the way its spun and woven so beautifully by age old looms. The fabric tells its own story so vividly, you can feel the desert landscape and its textures and see intense labour through its fine weaves. I hope to provide continued demand for this fabric along with spreading the word so that this special part of can continue its heritage trade for years to come.”
kala cotton fabrics

Kala cotton fabrics.
Photo: Henrietta Adams

About the Author

Educated at the London School of Fashion and with a background in pattern cutting, Henrietta’s “aesthetics is merged with the technical knowledge of creating a great fit and feel in garment”. With a control over the whole process – from concept and pattern cutting to design – she can create exactly what she has in mind. The design process evolves in a fluid and organic manner. Henrietta’s collection include women’s shirts made from organic khadi and organic handwoven cotton. Customers have been attracted by their soft and airy feel. Henrietta’s business is informed by a commitment to source organic material and the principle of minimum waste. Shop for HENRI products here. For regular updates of Henrietta’s work follow HENRI on Instagram

Sourcing Kala cotton fabrics

Contact us if you are interested in sourcing Kala cotton fabrics.