Say Hello to Sustainable Fashion with Toile!
A profile of Toile, a one-of-a-kind eco-fashion brand
remain cotton-based, which has become fairly normalised and oversaturated due to global competition. Within this paradigm, the estimations made under the National Textiles Policy draft are built on the ‘Make in India’ philosophy, which hopes to create a renewed spirit of manufacturing in the nation. However, when it comes to high-margin branded goods, there is very little that has proven to be successful and Indian trade is still built on volume rather than value. Even the core push of the Brand India campaign for the textile market hasn’t gone beyond khadi since it is a truly original and integral part of India’s brand identity.
KVIC AND KHADI PROTECTION
Given the immense brand value that khadi has for the sector and the national economy, it wasn’t a big surprise when the KVIC sent a legal notice to over 220 firms in the short span of the last two and a half years. Their complaint against these companies was simple: to stop selling khadi products which weren’t registered for using ‘khadi mark’ or using terms like ‘handwoven’ and ‘hand-spun’. The complaint was further defined by the Chairman of the KVIC as being crucial to protecting the Indian indigenous fabric and its buyers. Their key allegations has always been that the KVIC intends to protect buyers from being cheated by firms that sell khadi products without due benefits to the khadi artisans.
This is indeed a valid concern as over the last few years, the sales of khadi goods have significantly spiked. Given the global trends towards organic, natural and sustainable products, the Indian advantage of khadi is a natural winner. In 2017, the seemingly niche khadi fabrics industry posted sales of over
R2,005 crore in India–its highest yet–which was a 33 per cent rise over the previous year. All of this also fed into the broader khadi-based village industries market, which marked its highest sales of R50,000 , crore duringg the same period and included products like honey, ssoaps, cosmetics, furniture, and food ititems. Moreover, the industry continued to proviprovide a significant booboost to the Micro, SSmall and Medium EEnterprises, ppushing sales projections for 201819 clocloser to R5,000 crore for kkhadi.
GIVEN THE GLOBAL TRENDS TOWARDS ORGANIC, NATURAL AND SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS, THE INDIAN ADVANTAGE OF KHADI IS A NATURAL WINNER.
KVIC VS FABINDIA
The key motivation behind the KVIC’s legal cases against the numerous firms is based on the fact that true khadi is intended to be hand-spun and hand-woven as defined by the KVIC Act, while private players are falsely using mechanised production. Companies that sell khadi products legitimately register for the khadi mark by paying a fee and prove their production techniques, thereby employing artisans and complying with other requirements. The common misconception that the KVIC requires a share of revenues from the sales of any company’s products has also played a role in fostering confusion.
Of the many companies that were targeted by the KVIC, perhaps the most well-known is Fabindia, which is known for its ethnic wear brand. The conflict between the two entities has been going on for over three years, with the KVIC issuing a statement to Fabindia ordering the company “to cease and desist immediately and forthwith from displaying charkha or using selling products bearing the charkha or khadi mark or any similar mark on goods and use/sell products bearing the word/mark ‘khadi’ or any similar mark whatsoever or howsoever related to khadi.”
The KVIC also stated that Fabindia’s violation has caused “irreparable loss, harm and damage to the goodwill” representative of the khadi trademark and has led to losses to the artisans. However, the company has refused to act on this order and has called the KVIC accusation ‘baseless’, expressing its willingness to defend itself ‘vigorously’. But despite its protestations and denials, after over three years of conflict, Fabindia signed an undertaking with the KVIC stating that it will no longer use the word ‘khadi’ in its products. Despite this, the KVIC is intent on seeking restitution for Fabindia’s prior violations, and in June 2018, the KVIC demanded R525 crore (25 per cent of Fabindia’s average annual profits over the last three years) in damages from Fabindia. Their claim remains that Fabindia ‘illegally’ used the KVIC trademark ‘charkha’ and sold goods with the ‘khadi mark’ tag falsely, with Fabindia products actually being factory-made cotton garments that were sold under false labels that denied artisans their fair share and deceived customers.
The khadi industry has always been ensconced in a protective shell of regulatory control, which has made ascertaining its true commercial potential impossible. But as more entrepreneurs and consumers have flocked towards new designs, new styles and new ways of using the fabric, it is very much possible that the new fabric of India might be the oldest one we’ve ever used. Clearly, the rising sales and proactive actions of the KVIC are indicative that khadi has an important role to play in India’s textile export story. The revival of khadi has clearly begun, but whether it can be sustained in the long term is squarely in the hands of the Government and the KVIC.