An old species of cotton: Kala

Vrouwen maken spoelen van Kala-katoen

In the northwest of India lies a vast area with large dry plains: Kutch. The indigenous Kala cotton has grown here for centuries. This resilient cotton plant does not need fertilizers or pesticides to grow. Even extra water is unnecessary, a little rainwater after it has just been sown is sufficient.

(cotton farmer controls cotton plants)

For a moment it seemed that Kala suffered the same fate as hundreds of other indigenous cottons of India: they are gone forever. A genetically modified hybrid American variety is now grown on 97 percent of Indian cotton fields.

Demonstrations of the weavers

Thanks to a number of tenacious cotton farmers, Kala cotton has been saved from extinction. They have united with the hand weavers of the region and intend to make Kala popular again. Together with the NGO Khamir, they have built a number of buildings in Kutch on a quiet, sandy plain, outside the villages.

Kala cotton of our offer comes from this place. It is a small settlement where everyone can see the weavers at work. Every day busses of tourists and fashion students come to see the old craft of the hand weavers. In a small shop they can buy things that are woven on site: dresses, trousers, scarves, cushion covers and bags.

Demonstration weaver of the NGO Khamir (tensioning of the warp threads)

Hand spun and woven

Kala cotton cannot be industrially processed due to the structure of the fiber. This is shorter than the fiber of the regular BT cotton. Factory processing of cotton is set on this long fiber cotton. Kala cotton can therefore only be spun and woven manually.

Kala as high fashion

Fashion designers have also come to appreciate Kala. Collections of this native cotton can be seen on the catwalk of the Lakmé fashion week in Bombay: the most important fashion event in India. There is clearly a revaluation going on in the Indian fashion industry for handicrafts, ancient crafts and indigenous raw materials.