Wearing all things handcrafted:
Cotton/ Crop top blouse from: Jaypore
Saree: Nani’s closet
Tribal Hasli necklace: Bombay Bead
My grandmother’s (nani’s) closet has been a constant source of inspiration when it comes to handloom. Her collection offers sarees dating back to almost 20-30 years or may be later 🙂 (I am yet to explore that). I remember her indulging in beautiful silk sarees, with hues of pinks and blues being her favorites. Later drifted slowly towards easy-breezy chiffons for being light weight and easy to drape according to her age.
Recently, i had this amazing opportunity to peek inside her closet, mesmerized and in awe of colorful & lightly hanged chiffons (mostly florals) i stood there gazing in admiration. I wouldn’t lie i honestly wanted to have them all! But surprisingly she came to me and handed over her 20yrs old bright & beautiful blue colored crepe silk saree, still very crisp and lightweight and perfectly maintained (like most of her sarees). She asked me if i would like to keep it or may be i asked her (who cares) and next thing you know, the little girl inside me jumping out of excitement was staring herself in the mirror with 6 yards of beautiful fabric draped around her. It was just a perfect moment! There’s nothing more beautiful and no less than a treasure owning a saree that has been passed on from one generation to other.
NATIONAL HANDLOOM DAY
Today (August 7th) marks the celebration of National Handloom Day, a day to celebrate plethora of colors, motifs, indigenous weaves and textiles our very own Handloom Industry offers and to celebrate the work of weavers and artisans who have helped keeping the rich cultural heritage of our country alive.
Handloom, or fabric woven by hand, makes up just over a tenth of India’s total fabric production. A spectacular range is created by weavers across the country, from the Madras checks and Kanchipuram weaves of Tamil Nadu to pashmina and shahtoosh of J&K, from the tie-and-dyes of Gujarat and Rajasthan to the eri and muga silks of Assam.
The Handloom Industry is the 2nd largest source of employment in India, after Agricultural industry with 95% of world’s handwoven fabric being produced in India, yet it has lost its significance with forever changing dynamics of global fashion knocking our doors and powerloom aka mechanized loom taking over. The long and laborious process involved in traditional weaving methods is one the reasons local artisans loose their craftsmanship and trade over machine-produced weave, making thread cheaper and more plentiful.
Handlooms have been the Indian way of life: rich, cultural and authentic but has certainly experienced a loss of interest as a new generation due to western influences and fast fashion sold via online websites that has become utterly easy & cheap in comparison to maintaining a handloom piece in our busy daily schedules.
My undying love for sarees and stepping into leading a more conscious lifestyle has helped me understand how important it is to revive the fading art of handloom and to understand the process & real life challenges the weavers face, not paid well enough for their skills and craftsmanship weaving a handwoven piece, one thread at a time. Part of the problem lies behind the fact that it has become significantly easier for all of us to indulge in anything or everything that catches our eye, without being fully aware about the transparency of the process or if our money is going in the right hands.
Sure powerlooms are faster and produce a lot more whereas it takes a weaver few days to weeks to weave something beautiful such as a 6 yard of fabric but thats exactly what makes it special and priceless. Choosing handloom over machine made is certainly a conscious choice and definitely the need of the hour since it effects so many livelihoods.
Handloom production is environment friendly and a source of employment, generation for unskilled rural workers especially women who are traditionally employed in hand spinning. We just cannot be blind to the immense potential of one of the country’s richest resources. — Ritu Kumar
With mass manufacturing and fleeting trends that changes with every new season, there are hardly an emotions attached to what we wear or how we want to present ourselves whereas handloom on the other hand is much more than just a piece. It is an emotion that depicts aesthetics of a weaver and the wearer. When we talk about handloom in the present times, it is certainly not limited to wearing sarees. New emerging designers have come up with contemporary solutions and innovative silhouettes embracing the handloom sector, opting for more sustainable fabrics and there’s something for everyone out there. They have been actively collaborating with International designers as well appealing handwoven pieces to a wider audience locally as well as globally.
The hashtag #iWearHandloom as a social media campaign was launched by Smriti Irani (Union Textile Minister of India) in August 2016 providing support to local weavers and artisans whose traditional trade was jeopardized due to fast modernization. The campaign started as a source of encouragement from people all over the country posting pictures on social media wearing handloom pieces. Ever since then social media has played quite an important role in protecting and preserving the richness of handloom with more and more people opting for it on a daily basis, either as traditional weaves or contemporary styles.
The campaign also negated conservation notions of Indian society about handloom being suitable and worn by only a particular generation that of our mothers and grandmothers, which sparked interest in millennials to step up & come up with interesting experimental ways to incorporate handloom.
What you see me wearing is one such example of personal experimentation. Although i had managed to get the blouse tailored to my size but i decided to ditch it and wore a much simpler cotton crop top, easy to carry with saree being the main highlight. There are innumerable ways one can incorporate handlooms, you just have to find ways to make it fit best with your style & personality.
Reasons to support Handloom Industry:
-Handlooms are one-of-a-kind pieces , each with a unique quality, handwork and skill attached to it. You will never feel that you have wasted your money buying a handcrafted piece.
-Handloom is a way of saying “Thank you” to the weavers for their hard work and dedication and keeping the tradition alive — Smriti Irani.
-Handloom fabrics such as cotton, silk, khadi etc are natural and sustainable fabrics, hand-woven thread by thread. Sustainable fashion being the only way to go forward, it is important to understand the importance of choosing the right fabric. Read more about sustainable fabrics here: Conscious Fashion 101, A guide to choosing sustainable fabrics.
-The handloom industry today is not just source of employment for the underprivileged weaving community but is gradually gaining a brand value of its own. Our fabric is not only winning attention of the masses to the classes but is also what is perhaps branding our country’s fashion globally. — (source: India Today)
I know there will be many more such sarees which are yet to be apart of my life and i will treasure them, some for their color, some for their fabric or weave, some for their design and others for the memories attached to them and this particular one is one such that will always bring a smile to my face. As much as i love a contemporary fix, i have always loved and wanted to wear beautiful hand-woven beauties just like my mother in her 20’s and my grandmother and for this reason, i would always support handloom industry for weaving stories in our hearts from weavers to buyers and passed on generations.
If we don’t educate our children and inculcate in them a love for home grown textiles, nobody else will. With us and our mothers having worn handloom saris or at least clothing that involved some amount of labour by hand, millennials seem to be slowly encouraging local artisans today. And one can only hope with new-age stylists and designers reviving weaving tradition of yore in novel ways, Gen Z and the ones to follow carry on the tradition, trendily of course.– Smriti Rao, a sociologist who works with local weavers.
I really hope you enjoyed the post and learnt a little something about Handlooms of India and why is it important to protect & preserve them. The next time you go out for shopping, make sure you make a conscious choice & invest in a piece that gives a little more meaning to your life and has a story that you can share with your daughters.
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Concept and styling: Tanvi Mutneja (@tanvi_msidhu)
Photography : Rajvir Sidhu