India has a vast tradition of textiles and handicrafts. In the past it was a way of life for the people. For the past 2000 years Indian history has been closely bound up with her pre-eminence as a producer of textiles. In the ancient world as well, indian fabric were proverbial. As early as 200 B.C. the romans used a sanskrit word for cotton- carbasina from sanskrit karpasa. In nero’s reign delicately transluscent indian muslin were fashionable in rome under such names as nebula and venti textiles meaning woven wind.
The quality of indian dyeing too was proverbial in the roman world. The influence of indian textiles in the english world in such names as calico, sash, shawl, pyjama, dungary, bandana, chintz, khaki and these are only a few among the textile terms which india has exported with her fabric.
In the 19th century with the advent of power loom and due to impact of industrial revolution, indian textiles and handicrafts industry suffered a massive blow and as a result the weavers suffered starvation. But even then traditional weaves, colors, prints and designs have always been reflected in indian clothes and even with western influence, the process is combined assimilation and invention rather than total replacement of indian traditional clothes.
In india there are endless possibilities to lend garments, even under western ones- a subtle ethnic touch, moulding traditional wear to produce works uniquely one’s own. This is what has happened in the past, this is what happening today. Designer’s like Ritu Kumar, Rina Dhaka, Gitanjali Kashab and JJ Valaya are using lot of Indian traditioanal styles in their creations. Ethnic wear and design is now considered to be ‘Houte Couture’ by the ethnic indian society and why not it be when india has a plethora of designs.
A convenient classification of fabrics made in india can be made on the coll basis:
1. Skilled work of professional weavers and dyers who usually worked close to the large market towns. Examples are brocade, tie dye etc.
2. Articles of luxury made under court patronage or in the court traditions.
3. Folk embroideries specially Gujrat, Rajasthan, Bengal, Punjab, Himachal, Manipur etc.
4. Fabrics of aboriginal tribes.