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How footwear made in Sivaganga is going global

The women at M.Rm.Rm Foundation in Keelayapatti, Sivaganga

The women at M.Rm.Rm Foundation in Keelayapatti, Sivaganga   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


The Sole Sisters are helping put the traditional craft of weaving palm leaves on the global map through their designer footwear

In the village of Keelayapatti in Sivaganga district, 49-year-old R Muthu sits with a mound of palm leaves, weaving them together. They are in vibrant shades of orange, pink and yellow.

Around 8,000 kilometres away, in Paris, a young holidaymaker slips into a kolhapuri and walks the meandering streets of Montmarte. Her footwear bears the work done by Muthu, in the form of orange Chettinad kottan (a craft form from Chettinad, made by weaving tender leaves of the palmyra tree).

The trendy footwear is the result of a collaboration between designer Chondamma of the label ‘The Sole Sisters’ and the M.Rm.Rm Foundation that works with women of Keelayapatti to preserve and revive the craft, and provides them with a reliable source of income.

The project started with 10 women, but today there are more than a 100 women working on it. The women belong to small agricultural villages in the Chettinad region, and they work out of the centres provided by the M.Rm.Rm Foundation in each village.

A worker at the M.Rm.Rm Foundation in Keelayapatti, Sivaganga, knitting together palm leaves

A worker at the M.Rm.Rm Foundation in Keelayapatti, Sivaganga, knitting together palm leaves   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Keeping tradition alive

“The kottan has shifted from being a utilitarian product and adapted to contemporary trends to become a fashion accessory. The response to the trial run has been terrific, and we have to now try and keep up to the demand,” says Visalakshi Ramaswamy, founder and president of M.Rm.Rm Foundation.

Chondamma says that she first noticed the woven baskets, boxes and other creations by the foundation at a popup in Mumbai, where she was showcasing her footwear. “The bright colours appealed to me, and I love colours,” says Chondamma, who immediately decided to use this craft in her next collection.

“It is a limited edition and the first batch that I came up with during Deepavali last year was called Palm Tree Huggers,” she adds.

Footwear designed by the women at Keelayapatti, Sivaganga

Footwear designed by the women at Keelayapatti, Sivaganga   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


She used around six different colours. The combinations are eye catching and look like candy. There is dark blue with orange, vermilion red with mango yellow, light blue and sunshine yellow. The base of the footwear is made of leather with the arch (upper area) being made using palm leaves. The sampling stage took around four to six months. But the challenge was to see if the palm leaves hold good in a footwear format. “They worked well for kolhapuris but not so much for sandals,” she smiles, adding that the next batch is currently underway.

For details, log on to: M.Rm.Rm. Cultural Foundation’s Facebook page or The Sole Sisters’ page on Instagram

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 5:28:23 PM |

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