Fourteen summers back when Indian fashion hit the ramp with organized fashion weeks, its agenda was shaky. Besides reinvention, revival and sustenance, the newly formed collective had to find buyers beyond borders. But it had no big political agenda, certainly not a nationalist one. It went through experimental stages through borrowed ideas of modernity till our fashion stumbled into its view of India Modern. The agenda kept shifting till designers figured that what their buyers wanted most was bridal wear.

Lately though, there has been a new moon. Wedding couture is currently the most lucrative segment in Indian fashion but another agenda is evolving fast in status, commerce and power. That of ‘textile design’. It is layered with purpose and achievement. We can call it nationalistic and contemporary but it is also commercially smart. Last week, when Santosh Kumar Gangwar, minister of state for textiles lit the lamp to inaugurate Lakme Fashion Week’s (LFW) Winter Festive 2014 edition bi-annual Textile Day, this agenda also acquired political correctness. Good for the fashion industry. This was just a couple of days before the Modi government announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Flipkart for an online marketing platform for handloom weavers.

This government has made its intention to revitalize the handloom sector obvious. Called the ‘Vision, Strategy and Action Plan’, the new draft Textile Policy (The National Textile Policy, 2000 had been under review for a while) tabled last month highlights diversification of exports through new products and markets. More value addition, encouragement to innovation and enhanced R&D activities are its focus. According to the policy blueprint, exports of Indian textile and apparel are expected to rise from $39 billion currently to $300 billion by 2024-25 with the addition of 35 million jobs and attracting big investment.

Some extraordinary innovation and R&D are exactly what a growing lobby among Indian fashion designers is engaged with. It is an opportune time to link the two agendas for mutual benefit. Designers too need a purpose, a community and a shared goal.

In an informal conversation over tea at LFW, Gangwar made no bones that his ministry was keen to explore the possibilities of textile related fashion. When I asked him why there was no consistent bridge between ministry of textiles and fashion weeks and why politicians in power were reluctant to attend fashion shows, he said they were keen to change that perception. Relishing the suggestion of a “textile comeback” in fashion, Gangwar appeared willing to tune in to creating a dialogue between designers and young generation weavers, the equal other halves of this ambitious movement.

A stall representing the development commissioner of handlooms (DC Handlooms) which falls under ministry of textiles was also set up at LFW. From May, work had begun to link designers and brands directly with weavers. Designer Shruti Sancheti, for instance, used the sourcing options to create a line from Pochampalli on the one hand and Varanasi weaves on the other. Arindam Saha, associate director at Wazir Management Consultants who represented this stall said that at least 30 designers had come up to see the samples displayed. Most were looking for fluid weaves, said Saha, pointing towards a hand-woven block printed textile silk sample and Bhagalpuri silk. “Overall, the domestic retail sector is flourishing but consumption of handlooms hasn’t really increased in the last three to five years,” said Saha.

Gangwar also unveiled the Handloom Mark at LFW. While this stamp of authenticity and collective identity was launched in 2006, no fashion designer uses it for his or her products even though many make authentic handloom fashion. It was a bit ironic that we were clapping for something so fundamental, eight years after its launch.

It is time now for LFW to add more ammunition to its textile day by minimizing shows and channeling trade and creativity. They have managed to stay with the concept despite challenges and confusion. While some clothes displayed were in sync with the purpose like Sanjay Garg’s for his tailoring approach to weaving, Anavila Misra’s for her simple and impactful woven linen saris, Soumitro Mondal’s for his use of the craftsmanship of his home state West Bengal to create some intricate but wearable pieces, LFW may have to reject a lot more designers and curate its shows carefully than open the platform to so many. Clutter emanates when three designers show mini collections in each show. Some of them have begun adding bling and gimmick to textiles, defeating the base personality of woven garments.

As work gathers momentum to feed a larger movement, it may not be enough for Indian designers to just be smug “textile designers”. Modernity, wearability and good pricing may be key words to keep up with the game.