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National Handloom Day: All that’s made by hand

A model sports an outfit from Alayna Khadi  

Leading up to August 7, earmarked as National Handloom Day, union minister of textiles Smriti Irani initiated the #IWearHandloom campaign, urging men and women to post photographs of them wearing handlooms and tag five others. Social media timelines are filled with photographs of people turned out in the best of handlooms. While some love the idea behind the campaign and flaunt handlooms, from expensive silks to workwear apparels, another section is wondering if such campaigns really make a difference.

Whether you are optimistic or cynical, there’s no denying that earmarking a day to celebrate handlooms has added fuel to the growing interest in indigenous textiles in recent years. The last few seasons of Lakme and Amazon India Fashion Weeks and India Couture Week saw a number of designers showcasing collections in handlooms. A similar spurt in the retail sector is also palpable.

Artist Thota Vaikuntam’s daughter Sowbhagya is among the new players to join the handloom tribe. “My father travelled extensively across India and when he returned, he would bring lovely saris for my mother. He also used textiles as part of his art work. I got fascinated with textures, colours and learnt about hand-woven textiles,” she says. The more she learnt, the more she fell in love with handlooms. After spearheading an art gallery, Sowbhagya began ‘NativeWay’ and looks at it as her way to contribute to an eco-friendly lifestyle. She sought out alumni of Kala Raksha, the famed art and textile trust in Kutch and sourced indigo, ajrakh and batiks. Now testing the market through a kiosk at Inorbit, she says buyers prefer the Rs.1000 to 2500 range to the high-end line. Sowbhagya plans to introduce a festive collection in Mangalgiri with hand block prints.

The city has seen a spurt in designer-driven boutiques. But Tanya Rao believes that limiting handlooms to an elitist clientele that can shell out around Rs.10,000 for an outfit defeats the purpose. She recently founded Alayna, a label that sells ensembles in khadi. It’s available in the international departure section at Shamshabad airport and she plans to sell Alayna apparels through leading retailers in the city soon. Tanya’s interest in hand-woven fabrics came from watching her mother, Vijayalakshmi, work with weavers. “I love organic fabrics, cottons and silks. They work well for ikats, kalamkari and block printing. My go-to store would be a FabIndia. We want to come up with clothes for a younger clientele,” says Tanya.

A few players also test the waters through Sunday markets that bring together organic produce and other eco-friendly products. Monica Ramadhenu, started her label Indiflora one and a half years ago and gauged the response at some of these markets. Now selling fabrics, saris and apparels through The Green Fabric Revolution in Gachibowli, she meets a discerning clientele looking for eco-friendly products. “People are making an effort to reduce using chemical-laden products not only in food, also in clothing and other household products. I source fabric from a friend in Ahmedabad, malkha from the city, among others,” she says. Indiflora uses natural dyes and non-GMO cotton. Monica feels price isn’t a dampener. “People are willing to pay but the apparels need to look smart. The emphasis is on design. There will be no takers for drab looking outfits, no matter how good the fabric is.”

Shilpa Konduru has seen the vagaries of the market for 12 years since she started Vestem Khadi. She seen mindsets changing, as khadi began to be used by fashion labels. “There are more takers for, say, a Mangalgiri fabric, than khadi. Since khadi is hand-spun and then hand-woven, the price will be 20 to 30 per cent more than other handlooms. That is a reason for concern among price-sensitive consumers,” she says. A glimmer of hope is when she spots women wearing khadi outfits for work. Hand-spun, hand-woven fabric going mainstream is a sign of success.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 10:18:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/National-Handloom-Day-All-that%E2%80%99s-made-by-hand/article14553227.ece

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