Indian weaves going Dutch

Weaver’s musketeers -- Kanak and Sindhu, with their Dutch counterpart, pave the way for Indian handlooms

Weaver’s musketeers -- Kanak and Sindhu, with their Dutch counterpart, pave the way for Indian handlooms  


Two Indian women in The Netherlands and a Dutch designer have come together to get Indian weaves across to Europe.

Here we are cribbing about our 3G connection, and here are two Indian women harnessing connectivity to teach weavers in rural India to use smart phones and Whatsapp. They are taught to connect with a Dutch designer, and produce desi weaves for international markets. Now they are crowd funding to ensure weavers have ample assured work and provide talking tags to their products so buyers can see a film on the genesis of their product. Kanak Hirani Nautiyal from Bengaluru and Sindhu Holla from Mumbai met in Amsterdam, when they worked for the same company. “Our connection to India was still strong. When you’re far away from home, you always try to find ways to remind you of India and connect to it. Sindhu and I both love fashion and try and look for treasures during our travels back home. In 2012 at a handloom fair in Uttarakhand, I bought shawls from Mahesh Chandra Bisht, an artisan who had learnt to weave as part of a rural village development and employment scheme. Looking at the quality and genuine beauty of the scarves we thought, how would it be if we could connect this artisan and many others like him to the global fashion world?” says Kanak.

“Amsterdam is always so cold and windy that you can never leave home without a scarf and it is, of course, a fashion hub too!” quips Kanak, of the market potential they saw. They started Pashm in 2013, but people found their collection “too ethnic and colourful”. Kanak and Sindhu realised that the products had to be modernised for the international audience, keeping the technique that makes it unique, intact. “At a fashion speed dating event, we found Jolijn Fiddelaers, a Dutch textile designer who had worked in India before. We decided to launch our own brand Karigar at Dutch Design Week in the Netherlands in 2014.”

The products became more contemporary, but used the craft, skills and techniques of talented Indian ‘karigars’. “That’s how the name came about - as a tribute to those who create such beauty. Today Karigar retails across the Netherlands and Germany. Next month we start to sell in Belgium and U.K. Meanwhile their earlier venture Pashm now focuses on getting artisans in India to produce textiles for designers/brands abroad. “That way, people around the world can provide their designs to us, and we can help with the production through our weavers. The product will then be sold under that designer’s brand name,” she explains.

Till date they have worked with artisans in Garhwal, Himachal, Assam, Karnataka (women of the Lambani tribes), Punjab (phulkari) and Andhra (Ikat). Next on their list is Kutch in Gujarat, and north-east India. They have provided every master weaver, production head, and one team member with a smart phone and have trained them to use it — taking photographs of their work, and using Whatsapp to share. “This helps to be in touch with them constantly. With 3G having reached remote areas in India too, we find it easy to communicate. Between the three of us, we keep travelling to India often.” They have now launched a crowd funding campaign because they believe it’s the best way to test the market and see what people think of their products. Kanak says their aim is to raise 30,000 Euros.

“Through this campaign, people will be able to contribute in many ways — by directly impacting karigars (sponsoring health care for them and education for their children), ordering our products and indirectly impacting them.

When someone places a pre-order, we start production, giving more work to the karigars and giving them the chance to earn more.”

The most interesting bit about placing a pre-order is how they plan to document the story of the product through videos and pictures. “Once created, each product will have a Talking Tag, a hang tag with a QR code that you need to simply scan to learn who made your product and how it was made,” explains Kanak.

The crowd funding will also be used to begin the production of Tangram Textiles, their next collection that will be showcased at international trade fairs. “We will also identify two new craft groups who will be trained by us to develop new products for the Tangram Textiles collection.” They also intend to start a Webshop.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2019 3:19:34 PM |

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