Handloom, understated trendsetter connecting masses with classes (2016 in Retrospect)

New Delhi, Dec 20 (IANS) From the country’s apex fashion body giving prominence to handwoven fabrics at shows to the Ministry of Textiles collaborating with top-notch fashion brands and designers for collections promoting indigenous textile, and social media buzzing with hashtags like #IwearHandloom, 2016 saw a new wave of awareness of handlooms among both the classes and the masses.

Some of the best-known designers like Ritu Kumar, Anita Dongre, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Madhu Jain and Wendell Rodricks, who have always emphasised on the use of skin-friendly fabrics with their handloom-inspired collections, have also urged the Indian government for extra support in this regard.

“The fashion industry is also a major job provider, especially with the recent craze of Benarasi and Chanderi handlooms. So, this interest needs to be taken care of. If you have government backing, a lot of doors open up,” designer Madhu Jain, who has been in the industry for nearly 30 years, told IANS.

Having worked with weavers closely, she feels they become more “receptive” if they know that a designer has come with a “government recommendation”.

“They consider it a serious thing,” added Jain, who has worked with handlooms like Kalamkari, Kantha and Ikat, among others.

This year, weavers got an added boost when India’s cabinet in June approved a package for the textiles sector with measures such as tax sops and relaxation of labour laws, with a three-year target of 10 million more jobs, $30 billion additional exports and $11 billion worth of fresh investment.

The Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), the country’s apex fashion body led by Sunil Sethi, continued its support for textiles and handloom this year too when they collaborated with the Development Commissioner Handlooms (DCH) to reinvent indigenous crafts executed by handloom weavers through effective skill development.

Under this, some FDCI-affiliated designers took it upon themselves to impart professional training in design development at various Weaver Service Centres across the country.

Also, the Amazon India Fashion Week (AIFW), a bi-annual event organised by FDCI, dedicated two days of the fashion week, that took place in October, to handlooms.

IMG-Reliance, a joint venture between Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and IMG Worldwide (IMG), also joined forces with the Ministry of Textiles to empower the handloom weavers community in India.

“Through the programme, we aim to also drive awareness about the importance of the handloom industry and the skill development initiatives,” Jaspreet Chandok, Vice President (Fashion) IMG Reliance, had said.

Lakme Fashion Week (LFW), another major fashion week in India, dedicates an entire day to Indian textiles and sustainable fashion in all its editions. The previous season was all about a #MadeinAssam initiative as an attempt to link northeast textiles to the mainstream designer retail market.

The Month of National Handloom Day also witnessed social media buzzing with hashtags related to handloom when Textiles Minister Smriti Irani launched the #IWearHandloom’ initiative on August 2.

The hashtag encouraged the wearing and sharing of handwoven garments and accessories, eventually going viral on Twitter upon receiving huge support from fashion designers, sportsmen, politicians and the public in general.

It was not just fashion weeks and social media, the Ministry of Textiles also collaborated with many fashion and lifestyle brands and e-commerce websites to come up with exclusive lines focusing on handloom. Biba, Peter England and Kraftly are some of the names.

“The association with the Ministry of Textiles has been helpful as the ministry through the Office of DCH has helped us connect directly with the suppliers and weavers of Ikat fabrics. The work that they have done at the Weaver Centres has helped in improving quality and they also helped us in conducting and sourcing of the orders,” Siddharth Bindra, Managing Director, Biba and Rangriti, told IANS.

He also emphasised that Biba’s range of Ikat has received a good response and is well-received by women of all age groups. “Ikat has now become a regular part of our collections for the next few seasons as well,” he added.

Some of the designers also took charge of promoting textiles from different parts of India at fashion events.

While Krishna Mehta showcased unconventional and exaggerated silhouettes made of Maheshwari silk fabric at the AIFW Spring-Summer 2017, Rajesh Pratap Singh recently collaborated with Kullu-based handloom weavers’ Bhuttico for a collection.

Designer Gaurang Shah’s handloom creation made its way to the 69th Cannes Film Festival when Deepshikha Deshmukh, producer of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan starrer “Sarbjit”, stepped out in an ensemble featuring Paithani and Kanjeevaram details — giving the craft much-needed global visibility.

(Nivedita can be contacted at Nivedita.s@ians.in)

–IANS

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