Cloth multi colored gajra: c/o Pure Ghee Designs
I come from a country that is home to a plethora of colorful handlooms, weaves and handicrafts. It feels amazing to own a piece of handwoven possession, that has been made with love and carefully put together. Handlooms are truly the soul and backbone of our economy. They’ve been the second largest source of employment in rural India after agriculture, and yet they never received the much deserved support for a very long time. Finally, Indian designers are now acknowledging the importance of passed on age old weaving traditions, that truly represent the heritage of our country. Not supporting them means watching these age old traditions die with the current generation of artisans/weavers.
My interest and familiarity with powerful campaigns like #IWearHandloom, #whomademyclothes #Sareepact and many more that’ve been initiated by Smriti Irani and other handloom- fashion revolution enthusiasts, has been a recent occurrence. I am glad a change has come about in the way I view clothes and my perspectives have taken a huge shift. To be honest, I am happy that this change came about at the right time in my life- largely because of this blog & the power of social media. These’ve not only managed to enlighten me but also connected me to so many inspiring-smart women who’ve initiated interesting campaigns to revive the dying art of handloom in India.
Smriti Irani, the textile minister of India- launched the campaign #IWearHandloom last year, to popularize and support the Indian weavers whose traditional trade started to wither off due to fast modernization. Her main motive was to encourage people from across the country to join the campaign by posting their pictures in handwoven fabrics/clothes on social media. The campaign resonated so strongly with the people that in no time it went viral and became a huge hit on social media!
” #IWearHandloom is a campaign to show support to a community which weaves the diverse fabric of our nation’s rich heritage and brings international fame to our nation. It is a tribute to women who contribute to 15% of cloth production in India and 95% of world handloom production, it is saying thank you for their hardwork and dedication for keeping our traditions alive,” wrote Irani on her Facebook page.
Handloom can be expensive and they surely require extra special care, but when you know that a saree once adorned by you, can be passed on for generations- it all feels worth it! Handlooms are timeless that way, unlike fleeting fast fashion trends/clothes that barely stand the test of time. A machine made fabric can never match up to a handwoven one, the weaver’s skill and hardwork comes through very evidently.
Also, with there being so much talk about fabrics polluting the environment, and dialogue over the treatment of workers in the factories of Bangladesh, China, and even India (that sparked off #whomademyclothes)- which produces most of the fabrics used by international luxury/fast fashion brands- handwoven fabrics are definitely surfacing to be the best option. India is a reservoir of crafts, where you can find a new weave in every state- like khadi, ikat, chanderi, patola, pochampally, maheshwari etc. The focus must be on these unique selling points and in giving the international market a taste of our beautifully weaved cultural heritage.
One of the most important reasons to support or buy handloom is that, they’re eco-friendly and sustainable. They’re made from 100% natural fibers, and they have no harmful chemical induced dyes. Largely because of this reason, today many european countries strongly value handmade products over the mass produced ones- making sustainable clothing a buzzword. Many big enterprises have tied up with local Indian artisans to create unique handmade items. These products are then found in grand fashion shows, where the world applauds it’s beauty. When the west has turned to the east for it’s rich art, handlooms and handicrafts, we’re yet to break away from the shackles of mass made products from the west.
As, Sunil Sethi- the president of FDCI rightly said ” Weavers are the soul of India- they define our cultural roots and aesthetics. They are symbolic of our identity, thus making them a part and parcel of us. Without them, we are like a rudderless ship which is lost in the sea of mechanized fibers, which do not bear a testimony to a country which was once known as the land of thousand yarns.”
Even though the hashtag #IWearHandloom was a great initiative and a successful campaign- there are several shortcomings too. Such as, how is the trending hashtag making a direct impact on the low-income livelihood of the weavers? It is important to have a measurable aftermath to any campaign or purpose, without which it merely fails to reach it’s goal. We need to start by acknowledging that handlooms are an expensive affair- starting from sourcing silk/cotton at a fair price to making sure it reaches the market- the weaver’s skill-hard work is ultimately reduced to the price we’re ready to pay for his creation. So it becomes very important that we’re willing to pay a fair-competitive price for that handwoven 6 yards beauty. This aspect plays a pivotal role in sustaining the handloom industry and let’s be honest nobody likes to be paid lesser than what they truly deserve.
Ask yourself, would you be willing to put in hours of hard work if you’re being heavily under paid?
I doubt that.
The only difference is you have a choice to move out, and unfortunately the weavers don’t!
So, spend a little less on other things and invest in that beautifully handwoven banarasi silk saree that you’ve been eyeing for a long time. Join the #IWearHandloom campaign by posting your picture in any handwoven clothing item, tag your friends and share it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram- let’s together revive the lost charm called handloom.
While purchasing a saree or any other clothing item, ask questions about the fabric used, and the process of creating it. If you’re inclined towards buying a handwoven saree, then make sure it’s genuine and purchase from websites/shops that have a transparent disclosure policy about their sourcing & manufacturing processes. In this movement it’s important that the right person gets his due.
In this post I’m seen in a beautiful handwoven cotton saree with a ghicha pallu from Kaalka. I hope you enjoyed reading this post, thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!
Photography: Nikhil Adke
Styling, Concept and Editing: Swati Dixit