The traditional Maheshwari and Chanderi weaves had to go through an overhaul to appeal to women of today, says Mira Sagar
Amidst all those gloomy stories we hear of weavers languishing with no takers for their work, it’s heartening to hear what Mira Sagar says, though the reference comes in the form of a challenge she encounters while working with weavers in Maheshwar. “Every other weaver in Maheshwar is connected on Facebook. The biggest problem we face is blatant copying of colours, designs and textures,” she says.
Once, when a weaver was walking to her place to show her an end product they had all worked together on, he was stopped by a relative who photographed the sari, uploaded it on Facebook and declared that friends could get in touch with him for more such saris. “It’s wonderful that weavers are connected on the internet. But I laugh when they come and tell me proudly that they’ve copied my design. They see one strip and know the thread count, colour and design and replicate it. Having worked with weavers in Maheshwar for 23 years and knowing everyone in the community, I’ve learnt to let go and focus on newer creations,” she says.
Mira Sagar is a well known name in the Maheswar sector. In Hyderabad to showcase her festive collection of saris and materials in Maheshwari and Chanderi at Gaurang Shah’s store, she says the weaves have gone in for an overhaul with many designers stepping in to work with the weavers. “Maheshwari and Chanderi had, over the years, lost their appeal. The Chanderis worn by our mothers and grandmothers were more sheer, had one-inch borders, small buttis and would tear in no time because of the texture. And traditional Maheshwari saris were in ‘baingan’ colour with a one-inch maroon border. None of us would like to wear such saris. There was a need to rework the textures and colours,” she explains.
The weavers were highly skilled, she emphasises, and willing to adapt with the times. “With design inputs, these two weaves benefited,” she says. In the last few years, Chanderi and Maheshwari silks and cottons have made inroads into Hyderabad like never before. Mira experimented with textures. Instead of a 50:50 cotton-silk, she tried 70:30, 60:40 and so on. “This change of combination gives rise to new textures, some of which are glossy and appealing to younger women and some that appeal to an older clientele,” says Mira. Her collection of Chanderi fabrics are in vibrant shades of yellow, orange, pink and greens, combined with block-printed dupattas with thick borders instead of the traditional one-inch ones. “The experimentation with textures gives more room for the yarn to accept block prints,” she says.
Mira’s long journey with woven textiles began with no formal training. A mother of two young children, she was once gifted a Maheshwari sari. She loved the weave, went to Maheshwar to pick up a few more. “I sold a couple of saris in Mumbai. I didn’t think of it as business. Soon, I began giving colour inputs to weavers and before I knew it, I was involved,” she says.