The rhythmic clatter of handlooms is making some enchanting noises on social media platforms vis–à–vis the newly minted textile minister Smriti Irani (who is back and how) and her social media campaig
The rhythmic clatter of handlooms is making some enchanting noises on social media platforms vis–à–vis the newly minted textile minister Smriti Irani (who is back and how) and her social media campaign #IWearHandloom ahead of the first anniversary of National Handloom Day (August 7). The movement according to the minister’s office, made over 51 lakh impressions with over 58,000 interactions on Facebook in less than 24 hours. On Twitter, the campaign has reached more than 1.55 crore with 2.17 crore impressions of the tag — #iwearhandloom. Besides witnessing spellbinding responses from the fashion fraternity, brands and NGOs, it is also helping in enabling or initiating a conversation with well-heeled audiences across India and abroad towards promoting handlooms that evoke and provoke a holistic, sustainable lifestyle.
Sharing his personal experience of interacting with weavers and in which light he looks at the campaign, one of the top fashion bloggers and trend watchers in the country, Purushu Arie puts forth, “I got an opportunity to document the Jamdani and Kim-Khab brocades of Benaras a few years ago. Interacting with the weavers in person and experiencing the craft from ground zero opened me up to the world of handlooms. Several indigenous textile crafts of India are facing the threat of extinction if untouched. The major threat that the craft faces today is the high job dropout rate of weavers due to inadequate wages. There’s no bigger loss to the industry than the loss of these highly skilled weavers who form the very backbone of the textile industry that makes up around 12% of India’s export revenue. This is probably the first time that Indians from all walks of life lent their voice in support of craft and poor weavers. The fast-fashion culture right now is teaching our generation to buy twenty different trends for the same season and ten newer trends for the next season. Fast fashion culture emphasises quantity more than quality. We don’t need to stock our wardrobe with that many run-of-the-mill products. Investing in handlooms not only underlines your support for heritage craft techniques but also adds artisanal taste to your personality. There’s a lot of effort pouring in from Indian fashion designers, FDCI, NGOs and textile ministry to protect and uplift handlooms. The trending hashtag #IWearHandlooms is a small but significant step forward.”
Senior designer Madhu Jain, on the other hand, is all praises for the minister: “I think our textiles minister Smriti Irani’s social media campaign is nothing short of brilliant! By using popular media, she is bringing handloom textiles into the national consciousness. Through her campaign, the subtext is clear: Be proud of India’s heritage. Be unafraid to wear (literally and metaphorically) your pride in our rich legacy on your sleeve. By encouraging citizens to participate in this campaign, she has catapulted the handlooms industry onto India’s centre stage. On a more personal level, I was overwhelmed to see that the picture Irani posted to kick start the campaign also included Maneka Gandhi who is sporting an Uzbekistan-inspired Madhu Jain Ikat handloom outfit. I worked on that line with my master weavers from Andhra Pradesh for a couple of years, innovating and blending two different weaving traditions into a composite whole. My labour of love seems to be paying off.” Ask her about her thoughts on what the campaign is going to do for the handloom industry and she says, “Unfortunately, the Indian handlooms industry is an endangered one. It is in desperate need of a boost, especially in the wake of markets leaning towards synthetic, man-made textiles. The minister’s campaign which endorses this sector will hopefully serve as a torch to ignite an urgent interest in promoting the livelihoods of the artisanal sector as a whole. I’m confident that the honourable minister will walk the extra mile to take her campaign further in actively supporting the handlooms industry and changing the fortunes of craftspeople.” Designer Anita Dongre agrees. She asserts that handloom is the need of the hour: “It feels great to see that something I have always believed in has now become a national movement. Handloom is the need of the hour to save a dying art and to create employment in rural India. This movement will give a better future to the textile industry.”
Besides designers, a lot of youngsters like Shruti Kothari Tomar, a freelance writer by profession, have taken an instant liking to the movement. “For someone who has sported fast fashion all her life (including Bangkok steals priced at pittance) and felt great about it too, it’s a pity I didn’t discover Indian handlooms sooner,” rues Shruti, adding, “I would not have worn anything else! Ever! I am excited because it promotes Indian heritage textiles and there is so much of it that I’m not sure I’m going to be able to wear all of it in one lifetime. What helps the H&M generation is the fact that we’ve brought handloom with fabulous innovations and techniques into the western silhouette. Pants, jackets, skirts, brogues in ikat, Benarasi brocade, bagh, block prints, kotpad, patola, kalamkari, the list goes on. What’s not to love!” Dongre completely agrees and concludes, “I truly admire how designers have made handloom chic. In fact this bold experimentation with textiles is a reflection of the essence of our culture where we straddle both the traditional and the modern worlds. The evolution of handlooms has not only helped magnify the reach of the design repertoire of our country but has brought about so many innovations that are not only refreshing but also awe-inspiring! It’s incredible how these handlooms and handwoven textiles have transcended time and technological changes and continue to be as relevant today as they were hundreds of years ago. Handloom comes in great silhouettes and contemporary styles now. It’s the textile of today and the youth is surely embracing it.”