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How Indian Designers are Helping Handloom Weavers

Several style gurus are planning to launch handloom clusters across India in partnership with the government of India
How Indian Designers are Helping Handloom Weavers
Image credit: Pixabay.com

The handloom sector is one of the largest undefined economic trades after agriculture and incorporates an essential part of the rural and semi rural employment. Handloom weaving constitutes one of the most extensive and dynamic facets of the Indian cultural heritage. Handloom weaving is chiefly suburbanized and the weavers are mainly from the vulnerable and weaker sections of the society, who work for their livelihood and also contribute to the production in the textile sector.

This sector holds an advantageous position as it requires capital intensive, minimal use of power, is eco-friendly, can adapt to market requirements etc.The Indian textile industry accounts for about one-fifth of India s total industrial output.

Sustainable Clothing

Sustainable clothing pertains to textile derived from eco-friendly supplies, such as sustainably grown fiber crops or recycled materials. This includes how we produce and utilize clothing and other textiles. Following the guidelines of the principles of sustainability, i.e. reduce, recycle and reuse, clothes are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. Sustainable clothing provides a new market for increased job opportunities, continuous net flow of money in the economy, and sustainable patterns of consumption and use, which necessitate shifts in individual attitudes and behaviour.

The Nearly-dying Handloom Industry

India has a legacy of handloom weaving that is exclusive and the largest anywhere in the world. But that is dying because of absence of aid and strategies that are slaying the handloom industry that provides employment to the largest number of people after agriculture in the country. The setback is that at a time when the government is underlining skill development as a significant factor, these skilled craftsmen are becoming deskilled labour, working as vendors or chai wallahs. Not only is the livelihood of 43 lakh skilled artisans at stake, a rich artistic tradition, thousands of years old is dying a slow death. Lack of security and conservation would prove to be the last leg of the handloom industry.

The Plight of Weavers

The handloom weavers of have been thrust into a disadvantageous position by mechanical looms and deteriorating remuneration, with many abandoned the looms while others are in constant debt. Lack of information among weavers regarding various policies and schemes is also a significant cause for the waning destiny of the weaver community. A number of brands are currently working with the government-funded Samitis, which house several weavers under their belt.

Reviving the Indian Handloom Industry

Though the government is taking various measures for the revival and uplift of the handloom industry in India, practically speaking, we are still a long way behind. In order to promote the ‘Made In India’ Campaign, National Handloom Day has been celebrated for the past two years on August 7, with the aim to boycott foreign goods and promote local goods.

The #IWearHandloom had been trending and drawing attention to the efforts of Indian weavers.

How Indian Designers are Reviving the Handloom Sector

Indian handloom is back in the limelight, owing to the initiatives of the Narendra Modi-led government. Apart from government initiatives, there are individual steps as well. Several renowned designers and style gurus are also promoting the fashion industry, using local handloom fabrics. They are planning to launch handloom clusters across India in partnership with the government soon, planning to introduce handloom to all their brands.

In this way, they are making the handloom textiles global,  by incorporating handmade fabrics into high-end fashion and couture. Some brands get their own cotton yarns spun in the handlooms as they try to imbibe more purity and originality in the fabrics they procure and manufacture.

In a scenario where people all over the world are fighting to use the best, modern machineries and getting their work done by exploiting labour rules, there are brands, which are going against the tide and are trying to go ‘LOCAL’. “One can only become ‘GLOCAL’ by going ‘LOCAL’.”

Brands’ CSR initiatives

A successful, fashion-forward brand is always at the forefront of a growing movement in retail that involves baking corporate social responsibility into the company mission from day one. For it, CSR is not some outside, peripheral department—it is at the very core of what they do. Popular brands believe that having a positive social and environmental impact is certainly not at the expense of style and fashion. The brand builds trust with consumers because of their commitment to sustainability—but they do so by communicating sustainable practices in terms that connect with their audiences’ values and motivations. 

They do not use any special machinery to manufacture their fabrics. All of their fabrics are made using the age-old technique of being hand spun on the charkha and hand weaving on hand made wooden looms. They in their small little way are trying to make the art of age old handloom technique survive.

These CSR strategies have been affecting a lot of things from suppliers to the workers, even consumers and consequently all the society as it's promised, with a little or big impact. The efforts of top fashion brands separated give us the signal of the near future that seemingly CSR concept will be more common not only among the big fashion brands but also in the small incorporations with diverse implementation areas.