The focus of this article is on sustainable clothing, and specifically on cotton in India and some of the community-driven initiatives to sustain the indigenous cotton movement.

A fabric embedded in history

Cotton, the oldest fabric invented by humans, was widely cultivated during the Indus Valley Civilisation when hand spinning, weaving, and natural dyeing was in vogue. Indian cotton goes back to 600 BC with its earliest mention in the Rigveda. Much later, and from the 17th century onwards, all of India’s foreign traders, travellers, and invaders including the East India Company highly sought Indian cotton. Homespun and handwoven cotton or khadi was made popular by Mahatma Gandhi as a part of the swadeshi movement beginning 1905, symbolic of the end of dependency on foreign goods during the British rule.