The dismal condition of the weaver communities in states such as Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, among others, and the domination of power looms in India, have often been written about.
But in the past few years, traditional Indian crafts and materials that are a result of indigenous practices — particularly the handloom (a simple machine used for weaving) — have witnessed a resurgence of sorts. While a lot needs to be done to really revive India’s dying crafts, efforts taken by several fashion designers and other individuals in the field, have not gone unnoticed.
Ritu Kumar, Anita Dongre, Anavila Misra, Neeta Lulla and Payal Khandwala are all part of a growing breed of Indian designers who are now using their collections to promote Indian techniques, materials and weaving. The attempt is to contribute to the livelihood of local weavers.
A model in a Swati Kalsi dress
A new step in this direction was the recent introduction of #iwearhandloom, a digital campaign initiated by textile minister Smriti Irani on National Handloom Day (August 7). The campaign encouraged people to wear an item of clothing made by handloom, click a photo, and post it on their social media accounts with the hashtag, #iwearhandloom. In no time, the campaign became a big hit, as several people supported the cause.
A model showcases a creation by designers Mayank Anand and Shraddha Nigam.
Designers feel that this is just the beginning of a movement to go back to our roots. “We love working with Indian handloom fabrics as they are perfect for India’s tropical climate. They are breathable and skin-friendly. And the consumer has finally woken up to this fact. Over the past five years, we have noticed an increase in the demand for Indian handloom fabrics,” says designer Mayank Anand, who works with his partner Shraddha Nigam.
Citing the reasons for this renewed interest in handloom materials, designer Gautam Gupta says people were tired of the same old embroideries and textures. Therefore, a change was needed. “Globally, too, India is known for its handloom and handicrafts. That is our USP. There was a time when Indian fashion was trying too hard to ape the west. But they (international designers) have their strengths, and we have ours,” he says.
The most interesting aspect to have come forth in the last few years is the use of traditional handloom fabrics for western silhouettes. Khandwala says the more versatile the application of a fabric, the wider is its audience, and the farther is its reach. “Traditional textiles in contemporary shapes are also less predictable, which helps a lot,” she adds.