While recent experiments with curtains help the cause of the hand loom, designers and industry experts are looking into what is needed to attract a wider audience.
Last year, the government abolished the looms and crafts councils ahead of National Hand Loom Day. Then came the usual selfies dotted with hashtags from celebrities and politicians indicating that the hand craft had finally become mainstream. But does he really have it? Have we given power back to our weavers?
2021 sees everyone from high-end designers to craft-led NGOs shining a light on the faces behind our many weavings. Ramesh Menon of Save The Loom in Kerala is working on a scholarship program for artisan families alongside a live museum that will bring visitors face to face with artisans. Designer Rahul Mishra, who recently presented his fourth exhibition at Paris Haute Couture Week, is working with Save The Loom on a pilot project to help Chendamangalam weavers. At the Craft Council of India, their #CCIDirectWeaver initiative puts customers in direct contact with artisans to make a purchase, and Chhoti Si Asha in Chandigarh has worked on design portfolios for their female-led clusters. It’s also encouraging to note that e-commerce giants like Amazon are stepping up. Earlier this year, Amazon India Karigar launched “Handcrafted, With Love” which has incorporated master weavers, cooperatives, artisans and government organizations.
As hashtags will continue to generate the expected buzz – the Prime Minister’s hashtag for this year is #MyHandloomMyPride – we asked designers and industry experts how Handloom can compete with the prices of fast fashion and contemporary styling for interest. young buyers.
Fashion is the hope of the loom
It is a misconception that sewing does not work with the hand loom. Take my first collection in 2006, when I used hand-woven cotton (excess stock of hand-woven fabric from Kerala) as part of my graduation project… everything was tailor-made. Just like my clothes with Maheshwari fabric. The loom, which has survived for hundreds of years, has now been in crisis for a few decades. Fashion has been the enemy of the profession, but also its hope. Remember that the loom is a local industry and therefore solutions are available locally, whether in the town of Chendamangalam in Kerala or Pochampally in Telangana.
This season I worked on a pilot project with Save the Loom (the community nonprofit group) to prove that drinking shouldn’t be just during Onam or weddings, and weaving should be work. full time. The idea that comes from my studio in Delhi is implemented locally. The capsule collection has 11 garments and we will train local tailors, on everything from pattern cutting to marketing and social media. The weaver doesn’t need to be trained, of course. I designed for this project in such a way that everything that is used is local, with no embroidery, nothing imported. Every state can get answers like this if designers try not to think only of themselves. The cool quotient might start with the designer, but the price needs to be decided locally to strengthen the weavers ecosystem.
Rahul Mishra spent several months in Kerala for his university project in 2006, and with this Save The Loom initiative, the designer comes full circle. The capsule collection of 100% cotton tunics and pallazos, priced at 15,000 to 35,000, will be marketed by Save The Loom. @ rahulmishra_7 on Instagram
Focus on display
Every state in the country has a tradition of weaving. It just needs to be showcased and showcased properly and converted into silhouettes that will appeal to young people. There are such beautiful fabrics at our disposal. Unfortunately, the screen is so dusty and dull. After all, what is a Zara without its display or any other popular brand for that matter? Young people are turning to Western models only because they are low-maintenance and don’t need the kind of care that the looms may need. But that said, I think the younger generation is a very nice generation and will be happy to wear looms if that can make a change.
– Shivangini Parihar who, together with his partner Rekha Datla from modern lifestyle brand Summer House, draws inspiration from Indian craft techniques. @ thesummerhouse.in on Instagram
Create producer clusters
For hundreds of years Indian fabrics have been draped without seams like saris, dhotis or scarves. It’s not designed to make structured clothing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Khadi Gramodyog does a very interesting job. But such initiatives are done in spurts and in isolation. There is no planned collaboration to promote the hand loom to its potential.
Prepare the craftsmen
- Craftsmen have traditional skills but do not have business skills. They do not know their rights, their salary, what they are entitled to… and are ruthlessly exploited for this reason. We teach them best practices, costs, deadlines, questions they should ask their clients and improve their entrepreneurial skills.
- – Sonica Sarna, whose ethical design and production company creates sustainable products and supply chains for brands and designers. Their new collection will be launched on August 15, 2021.
It is important to guard against the exploitation, the shortcuts and the dilution of ancestral techniques. As a brand, we work directly with 400 artisans and very few intermediaries. We are preparing a cluster of producers in Kutch where 300 of our dyers, printers, weavers, tailors, etc. will work together. They will be co-owners of the business. But having just one or two of these setups won’t work. We need to replicate these designs by the hundreds across the country to make a difference in the conservation and promotion of looms. This is where the big players can make a difference and bring about a change in the dynamics of traditional Indian looms. But it takes long-term vision and planning to get there. It is not something that will happen overnight. Design education must also be reinvented and updated.
– Himanshu Shani, who, along with his partner Mia Morikawa at 11.11 / eleven.eleven, tries to ensure that his customers know the manufacturers of each product, using NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. @ 1111clothing on Instagram
Start with the textile people
Most of our weaving traditions – and therefore the techniques, looms and threads used – were intended for draped styles of wearing rather than cut and sewn. The fabric therefore often does not fall well when adapted to western styles. It bags and pulls and the seams give way as it is finely woven and loose. We need textile people to work on fabric construction and develop strains that work appropriately before we let fashion designers let go!
– Laila Tyabji, president of Dastkar, an NGO that works in favor of traditional Indian artisans. @ dastkar.delhi on Instagram
Change the context
It’s a design challenge, where we have to see what we can do for which market. Making modern adjustments is a good idea. Like what we do with our neriyathum mundum – where neriyathu can also be used as a dupatta – or kasavu sari in pastel shades. The loom can make a lot of sense by changing the context. Like what Kara Weaves’ Indu Menon does. By reimagining the thorthu as cocktail towels, aprons, bathrobes, resort wear, and beach blankets, it has become much more valuable. It is also much more durable for the weaver because he can get another market.
– Sreejith Jeevan, founder-designer, Rouka, brief explanation of the background. @roukabysreejithjeevan on Instagram
There must be adaptability
We have to accept that the real hand loom will always be expensive and almost impossible to expand to such an extent that it will become “affordable for all”. But there has to be adaptability. I have many clients who understand Indian culture and ethics. So, if they can’t wear kurta / pajamas, I sometimes make Banarasi brocade trench coats for them, so that they can still sport Indian fabrics and crafts and feel closer to their Indian roots. The general public needs to be made more aware of Indian traditions of weaving, dyeing, printing, etc. If designers work directly with artisans without an intermediary, it would go a long way in keeping the tradition of the hand loom viable and alive.
– Kshitij Jalori, a designer known for his contemporary take on traditional textiles. @kshitijjalori on Instagram
Back to the roots
We use a story format with youthful visual language to take audiences on a clothing-making journey, starting with educating them about weavers and their communities. Our shoots also make people understand that investing in the loom is supporting the craft.
– Kedar Maddula whose Wunderhaus based in Puducherry uses locally produced short staple cotton woven by clusters in Madurai and Kurinjipadi.
Design studio Wunderhaus is offering a limited edition unisex Ikat collection made from heirloom Ikat from Sambalpur, Odisha, starting August 21. @ wunderhaus.pondicherry on Instagram
– With contributions from Surya Praphulla Kumar