Spices and Ayurveda have been, and continue to be, an integral part of Kerala’s culture. Giving a fresh fragrance to the state’s ancient tradition, spices and Ayurvedic herbs are stepping into the fashion industry. Tapping new possibilities, fashion designer Sreeremya has come up with a unique concept called Bodha, which uses medicinal Ayurvedic herbs to dye handloom fabrics.
“The concept of Ayurvedic fabrics was not so popular when I started working on it. The fabric is made by blending around 50 herbs, which also produces various colours. These fabrics, and the garments made from them, are considered to be ‘wellness clothes’ as they keep you fresh and healthy. They are not only eco-friendly but have clinical effects and healing properties too,” says Sreeremya.
Sreeremya collaborated with Shobha, the founder of Weaver’s Village that focuses mainly on designer wear, lifestyle jewellery and handmade stuff. “Weaver’s Village was started with an aim to get youngsters interested in the field of handloom and is designed with the triple aim of ‘people, planet and profit’. We try to promote eco-friendly products through our venture and one share of the profit goes to the weaver’s community. This way, we can revive the importance of handloom in our state. When I met Sreeremya, she was researching on Ayurvedic clothing. We are working together to promote Ayurvedic clothing and handlooms. These fabrics can be customised according to the need of customers at an affordable rate,” says Shobha.
Sreeremya and Shobha.
Shobha says that the greatest advantage of this new path-breaking method is that the handloom sector, which employees mainly women, will be empowered and the rich cultural heritage of Kerala will be revived.
Following suit, the Spices Board of India has also taken the initiative to explore the unconventional market of spices. Satheesh Kumar K. of Handloom Weaver’s Development Society says, “Cardamom, ginger and cinnamon clothes are the hot favourites among customers. These fabrics are popular at international levels and some of the major international brands are showing keen interest in spice garments. The handloom weavers community and the poor spice farmers are definitely going to benefit from it.”
Some of the major spices used in the fabric are cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, clove, cinnamon, turmeric and tulsi. Fabrics like cotton, silk, wool or linen are dyed in a carefully controlled mixture of Ayurvedic herbs and spices. Interestingly, these Ayurvedic dyes can be mixed with fabric depending upon the disease or ailment being treated. The spice garments are gaining popularity in countries like Russia, China, Brazil, Canada and Thailand.
“There is an increased competition in the global spice market. So non-traditional uses of the spices must be explored and hence, such new avenues like spice garments and Ayurvedic clothing helps in giving a new perspective to the uses of spices. The use of spices in other countries is prominent too, but giving it a new perspective will help to enhance the importance of spice in the domestic market too,” says E.F. Mac Intosh, director of an international Canada based online publication The Spice Journal.