As the design fraternity aims at reviving the classic weaves and crafts of our culture, some new steps taken by fashion designers Sabyasachi Mukherji and Rajesh Pratap Singh are seen as a welcome change.
The designers have been invited by the Orissa state government to revive the state’s handloom sector which is facing a crisis. Both designers will work on the project with Orissa State Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society and Sambalpuri Bastralaya to improve designs of saris and other materials.
Once in great demand, Orissa handloom has fallen on bad days due to a variety of reasons like rising cost of raw materials, lack of proper marketing network and little scope for skill development. The state government woke up to the challenge after a traditional weaver, Uttar Meher, and his family members committed suicide, unable to cope with grinding poverty in Bargarh district in Western Orissa recently.
Arti Ahuja, secretary, textiles and handlooms informed that the state government has decided to take the help of experts after drafting a comprehensive handloom policy last month. “Weavers of Orissa need certain technical and marketing guidance in order to attract customers of international market,” she added. The designers would work on a project with the state-run Boyanika (Orissa State Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society) and Sambalpuri Bastralaya.
Talking about this venture, designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee said, “An increasing number of people these days are getting attracted towards traditional stuff like Sambalpuri textile. They’ll certainly be revived.” Apart from Sabyasachi, designers Abraham and Thakur, Anjali Kalia and Orissa-born Bibhu Mohapatra, now based in USA, would also work on the state government-sponsored 18-month project.
Rita Kapur Chishti, author of a book on saris from 14 states is coordinating between the designers and weavers. “The designers would work on improving saris, dupattas, scarves and also shirts and suit material for men,” she said.
Steps have been taken to set up a handloom park in Bargarh district, to teach weaving to people of non-weavers community. The proposed Sambalpuri Ikat handloom park would be perhaps the second handloom park in the country after the first one at Pochampalli near Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. With some 2,000 looms, the park would employ around 3,000 weavers. Apart from imparting training in tie and dye processing, production and finishing of the products, the looms would help the weavers churn out products according to the market requirements, according to Ahuja.
Turning the wheel
Designer textiles: Designers Rajesh Pratap Singh and Sabyasachi Mukherji will work on improving sarees, scarves, dupattas, and shirts and suiting materials for men.
The sudden fall: Orissa handlooms saw a sudden fall in demand due to age-old techniques, no proper marketing network, and very less scope in skill developments for the weavers.