Above all crafts, India is a mecca for fabric lovers. Thoughtful minimalism, bright hues, and sustainable fabrics are all part of a movement appealing to today’s modern Indian woman.

Popular sari fabrics by state
Popular sari fabrics by state

Contemporary Indian designers are tapping into centuries of inspiration that their country’s social and historical background has to offer. The western state of Gujarat’s major city, Ahmedabad is India’s first UNESCO Urban World Heritage Site, notable for its cutting-edge modern design. This “Manchester of India”, hosts a textile industry dating back to the 19th century. Strategically placed near the Sabarmati river for waterpower, which leads to the Gulf of Khambhat and into the Arabian Sea, makes it perfect for exporting goods.
Ahmedabad on the map
Ahmedabad on the map

At the forefront of this trailblazing industry is social and environmental responsibility. Movements such as The GoodWeave Label certify that ethical labour practices are taken seriously. Manufacturers are also finding more ways to efficiently use resources such as water and energy. Speaking of sustainability, I once visited a factory in Rajasthan that turns clothing and fabric waste into paper!

Textiles, photo by Mark Ashkanasy, RMIT Gallery
© Mark Ashkanasy, RMIT Gallery

India is known for their celebratory use of colour and pattern, especially in their homes and wardrobes. In the contemporary textile world, you’ll find modern takes on Rajasthani motifs, block printing, patching, classical embroidery, and geometric patterns rooted in poetic Indian tradition.

Contemporary designers and shops to look out for include:

Leah Singh
Leah Singh
Designer and Founder of her self-named brand of handcrafted home décor.

BODICE colour-blocked coat and pant, located in New Delhi
A womens wear shop founded by Ruchika Sachdeva. Her work has combined Indian craftsmanship with minimalist and androgynous designs to become the voice of a generation of women who seek sustainable fabrics and pared-down shapes.

NO-MAD table linen (they also sell thali sets)
An Indian lifestyle brand created by Anuj Kothari featuring handmade home wares and décor. Yes, they sell these beautiful thali sets as well!

Tarun Tahiliani
Tarun Tahiliani
A design studio “rooted in Indian aesthetic, yet Western in construct and fit.”

Contemporary studios are a part of our exploration of Gujarat and Rajasthan this fall. A highlight will be a curator-led visit to Ahmedabad’s renowned Calico Museum of Textiles, once a cloth merchant's mansion, with a significant collection of antique and modern fabrics.

Calico Museum of Textiles

Experience it all with local tour leader Jaya Basera a heritage consultant with an extensive research background with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.

India's Textiles, Crafts & Design
January 25 - February 8, 2023
Click here to learn more.