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July 2009
India — Land of Contrasts

A visit to India is like passing through a time machine, speeding through centuries in just a few seconds. Some would describe India as a preadolescent teenager whose body needs to catch up with the growth of its feet and hands. Either way, India has seen transformational changes over the past decade. India’s economy has enjoyed an annual rate of growth of 8.8 percent per year since 2003, new infrastructure has been built, and a new middle class has emerged.[1] Yet, the more things change in India, the greater the contrast between the old and the new becomes. One only needs to observe everyday situations where cars and cows share the same roads, and traditional retail market stalls operate alongside gleaming malls and department stores.

The articles in this edition of FIBER provide not only a glimpse of the new India, but the India of centuries past. The articles chronicle a study of the textile and apparel industry in India, both old and new, and provide a perspective on how the old and the new are integrating and growing together to enhance the present textile and apparel industry with the rich heritage of the past.

Martha Carper and Kelly Cobb, two professors from the University of Delaware Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies, spent two weeks in India during spring 2009 and visited five cities in northwest India: Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ahmadabad, and Mumbai. Each professor had a separate area of study, but for the most part, they accompanied one another on their respective visits. Kelly Cobb explored textile and apparel craft processes and looked at traditional methods of fabric and apparel design and their movement into mainstream retail. Martha Carper’s research focused on the modern retail movement in apparel and the exporters in India who serve global retailers.

Excerpts from their extraordinary two-week journey are summarized in this issue's Threads section. Time and space do not permit an in-depth discussion of all their experiences and insights from the trip, but we urge you to share in more of their odyssey through the attached QuickTime slide show (at left).

The pace of change and growth in India’s apparel industry has been enormous; however, there continues to remain a vibrant textile and apparel industry based on the traditions and techniques of the past. Only time will tell whether these traditions will be part of India's future growth or fade away as part of its history, just as only time will tell to what extent India will be a player on the global apparel stage.

Enjoy your trip through the “Land of Contrast”!


1. An Elephant, Not a Tiger. The Economist, Dec 13, 2008, p. 3.