What’s common between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet colleague Smriti Irani, cine stars Rekha, Vidya Balan and actor turned-MP Kirron Kher?
They all wear handloom products and are some of the biggest brand ambassadors. Their clothes, mostly handloom made, are influencing others to wear similar products and this in turn is boosting the business of the weavers’ community in India, especially those in Uttar Pradesh, whose population far exceeds those from the rest of India.
In Varanasi, these celebrities have turned out to be saviours for the handloom sari industry that was witnessing a downward trend due to rising production costs, stringent labour laws and stiff competition from synthetic sari industry in Gujarat.
Weavers and traders are singing paeans in their praise, especially of Modi, who has endorsed and effectively promoted Indian handloom products all over the world leading to a multifold rise in their demand.
In an election year, experts feel, this will well help Modi and his saffron bandwagon in their mission to snatch powers from Samajwadi Party in the state.
“Modi, Irani, Rekha, Balan and Kher are like God-send messiahs for the dying Banarasi sari industry struggling to stand the competition from machine-made synthetic saris of Surat that are also made of artificial fabric and cheap threads,” said Rajesh Shah, proprietor of Jagdish Das and Company, the biggest manufacturers and dealers of Banarasi saris in the country.
Shah said Modi in particular played a key role in reviving handloom products that are far superior to the power looms and other machine-made products.
“Surat saris are for the masses, but handloom-made Banarasi saris are for the classes and with Modi as its brand ambassador it is gradually regaining its lost glory,” he said.
- The government has identified 100 brand ambassadors across states to endorse handloom and influence people to buy them
- The Mumbai, Amazon and Lakme Fashion weeks decided to dedicate a day to handloom.
- In Varanasi, celebrities are now saviours for the handloom sari industry which was witnessing a downward trend
Manufacturers said the Modi government has taken handloom to an all time high. Products are put on display at fashion weeks. Models are walking the ramp in them. Reputed fashion designers like Sabysachi Panda, Ritu Kumar and Manish Malhotra have started working exclusively on handloom couture.
“The Modi government has identified around 100 brand ambassadors across states to endorse handloom and influence people to buy them. The Mumbai, Amazon and Lakme Fashion weeks have decided to dedicate a day to handloom. It is promoted at the ITC hotels and Air India on a big scale,” said Jagdish
Shah, president, Banarasi Sari Sangha.
The sangha patron Ashok Dhawan said weaving is a tough art.
“A child learns the art from his father. In absence of demand, youngsters in weavers’ families were switching to other jobs. Thanks to Modi, the business is looking good. The sari industry has seen a 30% jump in the last two years.”
The weavers community — mostly Muslims — are equally happy with Modi though they were non-committal over supporting him in the polls.
Akram Ansari, a weaver, is today the proud owner of around 100 looms. He says he has got orders in bulk that would keep him and his workers busy for at least three years.
“Earlier, I used to earn ₹7,000-8,000 per month. Nowadays, against an eight-hour job, I am able to take home at least ₹15,000 to ₹16,000 per month,” said another weaver Akram Ansari.