In an attempt to support, revive and popularise the Benaras handloom industry, an Indian hotel group has decided to dress their female staff, across their 13 luxury properties, in saris handcrafted by the neglected weavers. The idea came about after the proprietors saw a documentary on these craftsmen, who in order to support themselves, were being forced to sell blood to blood banks, and barter their looms for firewood. Apparently, only 160 master weavers are now left in Benaras.
It was then, in 2005, that the hotel group initiated a project to rehabilitate these craftsmen by providing them with food, shelter and electricity. It took two years for the weavers to create one silk sari. That’s is when the decision to use the garments for the staff was made.
Designer Jay Ramrakhiani worked with the weavers to create the uniform for the Taj Group of Hotels. “To sustain the project, we have also revived and recreated vintage sari designs, which are now available at Khazana, the hotel’s in-house store,” he says, adding that they will also sell saris made using cotton blends, Assam silk, Benarasi silk, moga silk, silk-chiffon and silk-georgette combinations. The saris cost anything from Rs 3,500 to 3.5 lakh.