Handlooms on the ramp

Textiles India 2017 Summit

The handloom industry of India resonates with our country’s rich and diverse culture. As we know, this industry has the highest employment rate after agriculture andalso it accounts for 4 per cent of the GDP, 14 per cent of industrial production and 17 per cent of the country’s total export earnings. This makes the handmade textile industry one of the most important industries for our economy.

Not only this, this sector also showcases our country’s impeccable skill, ingenuity and expertise to the world. More so, handlooms have a low carbon footprint, or none, as they consume less infrastructure, technology and power.

These are all well-known facts. However, what is less talked about is the importance of sustainability of handlooms in the ever-growing fashion industry of India.

Owing to the intensifying pressure for companies to become more sustainable, designers in the fashion industry, by and large, have started giving importance to the handloom sector of our country. The handloom products play a major role in the world of fabrics. Around 45 lakh people are directly or indirectly engaged in this sector.

Even in the recently held Textiles India 2017 Summit, which was inaugurated by Prime Mnister Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, a lot of pertinent issues related to India’s handloom sector were discussed along with several facets of the textiles industry at large. This one-of-a kind mega exhibition showcased India’s strength in the entire gamut of textile and apparel value chain, from fibre to fashion.

The exhibition aimed to strengthen the textile value chain in India and offered a perfect environment for B2B engagements to explore new partnerships, business relationships, investment opportunities and technological tie-ups across various segments. Prime Minister Modi highlighted the growing demand for products with zero carbon footprints, during the summit. He said efforts should be made to promote handloom and organic products, and further explore the niche markets that demand such products.

He stressed that additional research should be made to develop fabric from other natural sources too as this will establish India as valued partner for countries seeking growth and investment opportunities in the textile sector.

Likewise, concurring with the Prime Minister’s point of view, some of the experts in the fashion industry also reiterated that the traditional techniques have an amazingly low carbon footprint which is much more sustainable in the long run than the use of technology.

Experts’ take

Experts and most of the eminent fashion designers, who attended fashion shows at the Textiles India 2017 summit, were of the view that sustainability is the way to take fashion forward. They consensually agreed to the fact that some of the dying heirloom techniques and the vibrant handloom sector of our country need immense support from the fashion industry to sustain.

The fashion shows were fully supported by stalwarts from the fashion industry, including designers like Anita Dongre, Manish Malhotra, Ritu Kumar and Tarun Tahiliani among others. The show presented a compelling story of the textiles of India, focusing on innovations in craft and design.

It was the largest curated presentation of Indian textiles on the runway that unfolded the story of growth and development of the Indian textiles sector and its transformation to become a global power. Inspired by the seven key notes of music that form the Sargam, a fundamental base for any tradition of music, the show celebrated textiles of our country and showcased the entire spectrum through seven key segments covering Cottons, Silks,Wools, Embroidery, Hand-Dyed and Hand printed, Modern/Industrial and Futuristic Sustainable textiles of India.

Leading Indian designers joined hands with master-craftsmen to showcase their work in heritage handlooms, handicrafts as well as modern and futuristic textiles.

The textile panaroma spanned across regions and states of the Gujarat, North-East India, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Assam. The fashion show featured designs from a combination of 31 established and emerging designers and master craftsmen and weavers from across different textile traditions, languages and states of India. One of the distinguished fashion designers of India, Manish Malhotra, said, “I don’t think the potential of the handloom sector of our country is being fully utilised.

I also feel that, apparently, lot of designers are talking so much about it and its revival but not doing enough. But the government is being very good. PM Modi is being very forthcoming and passionate about it.”

The story of the evolution of cottons in India was showcased by designers such as Anavila Misra, mastercraftsmen Chaman Siju from Kutch and Richana Khumanthem from Manipur as well as Wendell Rodricks for Goa Kunbi Cotton Handlooms. The rich legacy of Indian silk included Banarasi Silks by Sanjay Garg, Meghalaya Ryndia Silk by Daniel Syiem and Tussar handlooms from Jharkhand by Shruti Sancheti. Rahul Misra and Rajesh Pratap Singh among others showcased the story of evolution of Wool.

The Embroidery category was presented by eminent designers such as Anamika Khanna, Anita Dongre, Manish Malhotra, Ritu Kumar, Rohit Bal, Sabyasachi, Tarun Tahiliani among others. Young gen next label Poochki collaborated with master craftsman Berulal Chippa from Rajasthan to showcase Bagru handicraft and Vineet Rahul collaborated with Mohammed Yusuf Khatri from Bagh, Madhya Pradesh to showcase Bagh handicrafts in high end fashion. Gaurav Gupta and Pankaj; Nidhi presented modern textiles and in the final segment Abraham and Thakore, Amit Aggarwal, Hemang Agrawal and Manish Arora presented modern and futuristic textiles that included man-made fibres, metal yarns and sustainable recycled fabrics.

Manoj Jain, Director, Development Commissioner (Handlooms), Union Ministry of Textiles, representing his ministry and its initiatives on handlooms and fashion, said a lot has been done by the government to protect and promote our handloom sector.

He said, “To promote handlooms, one of the major initiatives is the launch of India Handloom brand (IHB) by PM Modi in 2015. It focuses on uses of natural fibres such as cotton, wool, silk, and jute, and provides branding to the products for distinction.”

He added, “So far more than 400 producers have been registered across the country and last year’s sale is 110 crores. Besides, we have adopted 315 block level clusters across the country.”

Renowned fashion designer Suket Dhir said, “Handloom sector needs mass patronage. It needs little more understanding and sensitivity. Both powerloom and handloom should co-exist.

There is a new momentum and new designers are coming up and getting involved, which is putting more focus on reviving dying heirloom techniques.”

Marketing is key

In today’s world of technological advancement, marketing is pertinent to the growth and development of handloom industry. India’s ace designer and textile conservationist, Ritu Kumar, said, “Marketing is very essential to boost the sale of handloom products.

With the younger designers also getting involved, there is much visibility of handlooms in today’s time.” Designer Tarun Tahiliani reiterated, “Many of the younger generation do not want to continue in the profession of weaving as the weavers are not paid due credit and are not recognised enough.

They are not celebrated. Their products should be marketed enough so that the consumers get recognition of who the manufacturer is.” Ritu added, “Thailand, with just one fabric, Thai silk has utilised it fully for their incredible Thailand campaign. If government of India makes incredible Indian textile campaign based on our diverse handlooms, it would make a lot of difference.”

Furthermore, Susanne Goetz, Associate Professor, Department of Textile and Surface Design Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, said, “I think there is great potential for branding for Indian textiles. Outside India, the characteristics of fabrics from specific regions are not known. It needs to be marketed well. Transparency that goes beyond certification, is required which would bring to fore where is the product from and who made it. Technology also has a major role to play as it will let them connect to bigger market.”

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