Fashion

A yarn against all odds

“A traditional Kerala handloom double mundu can be much more than just that. It presents so many different clothing possibilities and depends on how creative you are,” says May Jacob. As research and project development director of Folklogue, a community-development organisation that is working with the weavers of Chendamangalam in North Paravur, Kerala, May says handloom still has so much untapped potential.

Women comprise a majority of weavers at Chendamangalam

Women comprise a majority of weavers at Chendamangalam  

Folklogue has designed a project, CHELA (Chendamangalam Heritage of Excellence in Looms, and Artisanship) to help the handloom sector in the region. It is organising an exhibition and sale of the weavers’ products, Chela Edit. Led by the Circle Co-operative Union, North Paravur and sponsored by NABARD, the exhibition would include a range of garments, home furnishing and dress material.

“This is an attempt to create a space for the weavers to showcase their craftsmanship. They usually sell during the Onam handloom fair held annually. This year, owing to COVID-19, they have not been able to do so. They lost out on sales during [the festival of] Vishu as well,” says May. The 13 weaving cooperatives of Chendamangalam hold unsold stock worth more than ₹3 crore, she adds.

Folklogue will continue to work with the weaving communities to help them find sustainable solutions. “This includes encouraging the younger generation to take up weaving, popularising the culture of handloom, and even setting up a common facility centre to research the fabric and its finishing. This would help address the common concerns regarding handloom. Modern design interventions and e-commerce are also part of the plan.”

Chendamangalam handloom saris

Chendamangalam handloom saris  

In Chendamangalam, each handloom weaver’s is a story of resilience. Most of them have been weaving from a very young age and continue to do so despite setbacks. Just when the weaving community was getting back on its feet after the devastating flood of 2018, the pandemic struck. Many social entrepreneurs had come forward to support the weavers after the flood, initiating efforts to revive weaving and repurpose fabric that was damaged by flood waters. But COVID-19 brought on a bigger challenge.

A weaver at work

A weaver at work  

Though awareness about handloom is on the rise and people are looking for sustainable clothing options, the industry is still facing issues such as lack of young weavers at the units (the average age of the weaver is 55 and above), lack of design assistance, pandemic-induced shortage of raw material, and a below-par shopping experience at cooperative stores. Folklogue’s project for Chendamangalam weavers is a comprehensive plan. “Tourism is an integral part of community development, and our focus is on building on the idea of experiential travel, to help build the Chendamangalam handloom industry. We are creating curated trails to help travellers understand the lives of the community better,” says Deepa Mathew, the responsible tourism director with Folklogue.

The Chela Edit, will be held at AJ Hall, Kaloor, Ernakulam from March 5 to 7. The event will showcase the works of 209 weavers, 200 of whom are women. The products would include saris, mundu, set mundu, home furnishing, dupattas and dress material.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 3:11:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/an-expo-to-showcase-the-craftsmanship-of-the-weavers-of-chendamangalam/article33974364.ece

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