A Journey Of Infinite Patience
Khadi is one of the most popular handicrafts that represents India’s heritage. It was made popular by Mahatma Gandhi during his fight against the British Colonial Rule in India.
A lot of handicrafts of India, Khadi included, are dying and loosing their essence in these changing times. The government has been putting in a lot of effort to revive the handicrafts sector through various initiatives. Efforts are being made to attract a younger generation towards these handicrafts and change the perception that these crafts have in the eyes of the youth.
The Indian Freedom Struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi is the first thought that springs to mind when we think about Khadi. All the Khadi weaving centres in Gujarat, especially those near the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, are proud bearers of this legacy. It was during our visit to one these centres named Imam Manzil, that we realised that it is this legacy that has made Khadi a cultural artifact and converted it into a souvenir for visiting tourists.
In this project, we explore how design can be used to revive the essence of Khadi by giving it a new meaning to make it more acceptable for younger generations.
The Khadi and Village Industries Commission(KVIC) is an Indian government body which promotes the usage of Khadi. Production and sales of Khadi comes under the 'small scale industry' sector.
The KVIC has made various efforts to increase the manufacturing and sale of Khadi products but this has not been a very successful initiative.
Imam Manzil is a weaving centre that was set up opposite the Gandhi Ashram by Dhimjibhai Badhiya in Ahmedabad. Dhimjibhai Badhiya is said to be the man who taught Mahatma Gandhi how to spin the Charkha and weave the khadi cloth. Today, the centre is run by his family and is one of the very few places in the city where one can actually see the how khadi is made by hand.
"Khadi vastra nahi, Vichaar hain"- Khadi isn't just a cloth, it is a thought.
The Khadi weaving process at Imam Manzil is headed by Narsinbhai Badhiya and his wife Ramaben. They have been practicing this craft since they were teenagers and believe it to be a craft worth dedicating their life towards.
For these veterans of Imam Manzil, Khadi is a meditative process that has kept them fit and healthy their entire life. They also believe very strongly, that the core of Khadi lies in its imperfections which are only possible when Khadi is woven by hand.
In this current day and age, handmade Khadi has become a rare commodity and mass production of the material has made it harder for family businesses to survive. During our interviews, Ramaben mentioned how the mass production of Khadi has affected their ability to pass down this legacy to their son.
Due to the intense physical effort and low monetary returns of the Khadi weaving process, the couple’s son refuses to continue the legacy of Khadi.
After gathering this information, we employed our deductive sense making process to understand what the essence of Khadi is, and how we can help revive this dying industry.
We studied all the key points associated with khadi and started looking into the elements that are the foundation of khadi and how those elements have changed over time and what they mean today.
Our research indicated that khadi gained popularity as the fabric for India’s struggle for Independence. For the generation of people who lived through the oppression, khadi became a symbol of their victory. But in today’s day and age where the youth are living in very different circumstances, khadi no longer remains relatable as a cherished artifact of our past struggles.
Khadi gained importance and relevance during the Independence Movement, when Gandhiji started the Swadeshi Movement. However, as we mentioned before, Khadi is not a material, it is a process. In fact, it is a very skillful process that takes time and patience to learn. This fact was often ignored because it had no real significance to the Independence movement.
Khadi refers to the long and tedious process of hand spinning and hand weaving cotton, wool etc. This process taught the weavers to practice immense patience. This is what allowed Gandhiji to preach non-violence using khadi as a metaphor. We realised that khadi can be revived as a symbol of patience.
Deciding a fixed target audience plays an important role on the end outcome of a project. We began by selecting college students as our target audience. College students were chosen as this was the youth that the couple at Imam Manzil was interested in targeting. So began the extensive process of personal interviews.
The standard research tools were used to conduct research, such as personal interviews and metaphor elicitation. The domain research set the theme of the research with our users that revolved around a simple question of “What does patience in clothing mean to you?”
Research revolved around a theme of what patience in clothing meant for our users.
After studying the data collected from our research, we concluded that youth are continuously hoping for a better future, looking for a sense of comfort and have to deal with a lot of trapped energy.
We created a complete new portfolio and brand identity for the team working at Imam Manzil designed to attract a younger audience. This portfolio would be designed based on the insights we drew on what the young generation understands by patience.
There were three strategies that we designed in order to get our audience involved in uplifting this craft. They were divided according to the time span it would take to implement them.
In the short-term goal, we want to create a sub-brand of Imam Manzil targeted at a younger generation by extending the company portfolio.
Our medium term goal is to design a fidget toy that will mimic the movement of the mill used to weave the cloth. This is to increase awareness about the process involved in khadi-making.
In the long-term goal, we want to propose a silent weaving cafe where people can come and de-stress.
We created a sub-brand under Imam Manzil called ‘Dhiraj’ which means 'patience' and 'calm' in hindi. The goal here is to make the youth aware of the new meaning of khadi. We want them to perceive it as a part of their own identity and not something they think of as old and distant. But the brand also has to stay true to its roots and be proud of the rich legacy it originates from.
One of the main attributes of hand woven khadi is the imperfections in the fabric that makes each piece unique. Here, we have tried to capture this essence of khadi in the logo while combining it with a fresh aesthetic. This helps the younger generation relate to the brand better but also stays true to its past heritage.
The next step was to create an entire portfolio of new clothing for the new sub-brand. The colours and design language was abstracted from the essence of ‘Patience in Clothing".
“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a person, organisation or service” - Marty Neumeier
This statement could sum up our entire experience for the project. We realised how existing cultural perceptions can affect the expansion of a brand into new markets, and that it is necessary to understand these deep rooted perceptions of the user before we embark on the creative journey. This project has also changed our perception of Khadi from being a fabric we heard about in history books to being a symbol of a mindset that can bridge the gap between generations.