Sustainable apparel giant Patagonia is supporting India’s efforts to bring local craftsmanship to mass denim. The brand recently purchased 30,000 meters (approximately 32,000 yards) of khadi denim fabric through Indian denim mill Arvind.
In July 2017, the mill reached an agreement with the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), an Indian government organization, to market khadi denim products around the world and create a steady stream of work for khadi artisans of the Gujarat region of India. The deal underscores the India prime minister’s “local to global” push to elevate the country’s offerings throughout the world.
Khadi fabric is an ancient textile technique that features 100 percent cotton handspun single ply yarn in warp, or in both warp and weft, in the 3×1 twill weave, resulting in a unique texture.
According to Shri Vinai Kumar Saxena, KVIC chairman, people can expect to see much more of the fabric as these large deals help bring awareness to its high quality and sustainable properties. “Khadi denim is the only handcrafted denim fabric in the world which has gained wide popularity in the country and abroad,” he said. “Khadi denim is increasingly being used by leading fashion brands owing to the superior quality, comfort, organic and eco-friendly qualities of the fabric.”
Patagonia made the decision to purchase the fabric after visiting the khadi manufacturing site, Udyog Bharti, in 2020, and appointed U.S.-based third-party assessor Nest to verify the authenticity and sustainability of its methods.
Recently, governments have been working to protect local crafters and artisans. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Mexico scrutinized Levi’s for what it alleged to be plagiarism. The government sent Levi’s Mexico and a Mexico-based textile supplier, Draco Textil Collective, a letter requesting them to publicly address the use of Mazatec designs—embroideries the ministry claims belong to Oaxaca state’s Mazatec culture—in a range of Levi’s Premium Trucker jackets and jeans. Levi’s Mexico refuted the claims and said it made sure to comply with Federal Copyright Law, and that contracts between Levi’s, Draco and the artisans establish terms for a better collaboration and prevention of any act that could be interpreted as cultural appropriation.
Patagonia’s support of ancient artisan methods adds to its reputation as a global business that maintains its ethics. The brand recently earned the accolades of the Brand Federation, a brand strategy consultancy firm, which featured Patagonia on its 2021 “Nice” list alongside other brands the company deems ethical, such as Airbnb, Uber and Lyft. Brand Federation praised Patagnia for its dedication to the planet, calling attention to its Black Friday donation of $10 million—what it earned in sales that day—to environmental programs. It also applauded the brand for pulling its apparel from a Wyoming ski resort after the venue hosted a right-wing fundraiser attended by controversial U.S. representative Marjorie Taylor Green.
Patagonia has long been touted as a respectable company for its efforts to support workers’ rights, promote a circular economy and curb plastic pollution. The brand reported that 87 percent of its offerings feature recycled materials, and that same percentage is Fair Trade-certified sewn. Additionally, 64,000 of its workers are supported by the brand’s participation in the Fair Trade program, and more than 550 of its farmers are part of the Regenerative Organic Certified Pilot program.