Guest Column

Wear your handloom. With style and pride

By Sunitha Simon 

Handlooms are one of the richest and most vibrant characteristics of Indian heritage. The level of artistry achieved in handloom fabric is unparalleled, with certain weaves and designs still beyond the scope of modern machines. While India provides about 95 per cent of hand-woven fabric in the world, sadly there is very little demand for handloom products in our country. Not only does this fact make handloom expensive but it also makes the life of weavers full of hardships.

So how can we as individuals help lift the burden that all the negative effects of mass production has brought, while focusing on reviving some of the forgotten and fading handloom forms in India’s textile heritage. For one, we can change our mindset about how we buy and by supporting local crafts, weavers and artisans who source as well as produce locally and ethically.

Handlooms have been recognized by the unique creativity and skill of the weavers, their comprehension of colour, texture and function, their capacity to rapidly adapt and produce small yardage in a variety of designs. The handloom industries are an environmentally friendly, energy-saving form of artistry within the textile sector which makes this a sustainable practice. Supporting the production of local and handloom textiles is a way to preserve its unique cultural identity while generating employment and maintaining a sustainable and environment friendly practice.

But for millennial consumers like you and me, how does handloom become more than a buzzword? If you, like the fashionable working men and women, associate the term with forced trips to sari exhibitions with your mom, read on to know how our weavers of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are working on handlooms for the next-gen consumers.

The handlooms of the two Telugu states involve communities that has been practicing this skill and technique for generations, where each person in the household has a specific role and contribution.

The tag on something handmade is always followed by a few zeros. But, trust me, that’s a possession. However, sometimes, it also depends on which region the handlooms are coming from, as techniques of weaving differ from place to place.

For the longest time, we’ve seen Indian handloom fabrics being limited to ethnic wear. As a working woman, I feel comfortable in a handwoven business suit, an Ikkat dress, Linen trouser and equally comfortable in my favorite Pochampally cotton saree.

To celebrate the National Handloom Day and express my love for the weavers of my home state of Telangana, I went on a ride to the picturesque Bhoodan Pochampally in my Ikkat dress which I had picked during my last visit from Lalitha Amma, a 68-year-old weaver from this land. Pochampally is dubbed as the “Silk City of India”. The town is known for giving the world a fabric that can rival any other Ikat production in the country. One of the most telling signs of Pochampally is the mesmerizing geometric pattern that spreads all over the garment giving it a perfect trance-like feel.

Did you know that Handlooms is an industry which employs 83 per cent women? There are not many industry or corporate or government institutions that have such an inclination towards employing women. These working women in the handloom industry rejoice in the activity. It is a hidden treasure of our states.

If this support is forthcoming, the remarkable turnaround of handloom could become even more of a shining example of how we could tackle its severe livelihood, ecological, and cultural crises. 

If this cause resonates with you, I request you to kindly support the weavers by stacking more handlooms in your wardrobes, gift handlooms with pride to your near and dear ones. Our combined efforts will not only preserve our culture but more importantly, enable the weavers to fulfil their dream of living a dignified life that they deserve as artisans.

(The author is a communications professional and an ardent handloom enthusiast)

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