Kriti Gupta, Gaurav Shukla, Arvind Kumar

New Delhi: Two thirds of the total jute production takes place in India. Over the years, jute has become associated with industrial activities – it was used as sacks, covering material and so on. Its rough, coarse texture made it unpleasant for daily use. But all this is changing.
With growing concerns about plastic choking the world, there is a move towards natural fiber and jute seems to be in the lead. The ban on plastic initiated by the Delhi government has given a new lease of life to the jute industry. Market promotion officer for Jute Manufactures Development Council, D Mukherjee explains, “Jute is the best option. Paper bags are not durable while cotton bags are very expensive. Jute bags cost Rs 3 or 4 per piece.”

While most industries are panicking at this time of recession, due to the aforementioned reasons, the jute industry is growing at a rapid pace. It is estimated that once the plastic ban takes full effect, Delhi will need 1 lakh jute bags per day.

Seema Malhotra, Founder of Scope Plus (an NGO working for underpowered), tells us why she began using jute, “Our main purpose was to provide eco-friendly alternatives to schools and colleges. The response was excellent. The only thing was that they wanted it cheaper.” They started with bags, but soon expanded into folders, notepads and so on because of the positive reaction of people. She continues, “Now that the government is giving subsidies, it should become easier to achieve a lower cost.”

From the service sector to the private sector, going natural seems to be the trend. Even the fashion industry is experimenting with this fabric in clothes and accessories. Designer Samant Chauhan has used jute in his previous collections to add texture to the cloth. He elaborates, “Jute is a unique fabric. I’ve been using it not only with the silk, but also I’ve used a lot of jute accessories in my collections.”

Shaan Thadani, a noted fashion expert and owner of the store WHITE, critiques the way the fiber has been used thus far. “We must be able to sustain what we create and make it eco-friendly. It’s very important and so I think we should look into fabrics like jute. But till now, I haven’t seen any innovations in fashion that are practical. It has been used interestingly as banners and accessories, but there is a lot more that needs to be done.”

People it seems are also becoming environmentally conscious. Marie, a housewife, reminisces, “When we were children, we used jute for sack races. Now I use it in more products – clothes, bags, household furnishings, etc. Natural fiber is the way to go.”

From dreary sacks to designer-wear, jute is definitely under-going a makeover. Giving the term “golden fiber” a new meaning altogether.