You could call it instinct. But something made me look at spice outside the realm of food. I looked at it objectively and beyond cuisine and truly enough, the garments section caught my attention. Some common sense and a writerly instinct set me thinking.
Isn’t turmeric good for health? Doesn’t it have healing properties? Isn’t cardamom a good detox agent? Isn’t cinnamon therapeutic? One can’t help agreeing more. But it also implies that spice has a role to play in the warp and weft of garments.
Agreed. So, it didn’t take long for Kerala to bring together two of its strongest attractions, spice and ayurveda in a unique sort of manner. It is nothing short of a silent revolution. Quite appropriately, it has been a clarion call for enthusiasts, few of whom have come forward to create a line of ayurvedic garments infused with spice and herbs. Obviously it requires some experimentation and tweaking to arrive at the desired result.
Fashion designer Sreeremya has been an early entrant as she set out dyeing handloom fabrics with Ayurvedic herbs. The end product, as far as consumers are concerned, is known as Bodha. This line is being promoted through Weaver’s Village in Kerala. Like Sreeremya, we hope to see many other individuals setting out in this direction.
Institutions too have joined the fray. The Handloom Weavers Development Society (HLWDS) in Balaramapuram, Kerala has experimented with ayurvedic dyeing. An ayurvedic dye house has been established at Balaramapuram with financial support from the Government of Japan. The Government of India has stepped in to offer financial assistance and with time, the ayurvedic dye house emerged as a unique unit.
Now let’s see what this means. A move in this direction has given a boost to the handloom and weaving industry. It points to the fact that a host of machineries and facilities help manufacture pure ayurvedic herbal handloom clothes.
While HLWDS continues to innovate on spice-dyed fabrics, the Spices Board too has taken a step in this direction. The Board has come forward to promote unconventional use of spice through its company Flavourit Spices Trading Limited.
Flavourit has a range of spice-dyed garments and various products including spice gel candles, spice-based creams and shampoos. All these are retailed at Spices India, a signature stall set up by the Spices Board in Kochi. This relatively unexplored area has also given a new lease of life to the handloom weavers and spice farmers as Flavourit has eliminated the presence of middlemen and interacts directly with farmers.
Garment entrepreneurs blend a mixture of spices and herbs while dyeing fabrics as diverse as cotton, silk, linen and sometimes, even wool. Generally ayurvedic garments use spices like turmeric, apart from cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger, among others. What makes these clothes different is that they are eco friendly and are high on the health quotient. Specific medicinal plants are blended with spices to address ailments like rheumatism, blood pressure and diabetics, apart from lowering stress levels. For instance, in the case of skin diseases, turmeric is mixed with herbs, while cumin seeds with herbs help treat diabetes.
All this has been possible because spice-dyed clothes don’t have any chemical additives or synthetics. They are made of cloth, herbs, spices and ayurvedic medicinal plant extracts and are as close to nature as possible. For this reason, these fabrics could easily cost 20 per cent more than the regular ones.
A growing awareness about spice-dyed garments has created a market for these garments in the overseas market like Russia, Thailand, Brazil and China as well.
One hopes this awareness leads to a felt-need for such biodegradable spice-mixed fabrics. In times to come, maybe we can call it wardrobe essentials ?