Recently, I came across an article in one of the online magazine. The article reads out the present state of
Handmade Industry In India.
Mayank Mansingh Kaul ( Textile Designer from NID Ahmedabad and consultant to the Planning Commission on the taskforce on Cultural and Creative Industries) passionately debunks a lot of myths about the state of the “Handmade Industry” in India today.
Here’s what he has to say:
Go to any village today. They wear cheap sarees: costing `200, 300, highly mechanised, made with toxic chemicals, and are being transported from god knows where; local people are choosing that because of a certain price advantage.
Tomorrow it is possible to provide handloom. We are not going back in time if we propose it as fabric for the local markets.
A maid in Amedabad will wear printed synthetic sarees, but with Bandhini dots. If you go south you’ll see powerloom sarees which are cheaper but it’s still Pochampally.
So somewhere our country, this mass market, still has that aesthetic which is very Indian and cultural. Otherwise you’d see these printed sarees with Picasso designs or art deco prints
We’ve not giving handloom a chance. Look at Khadi policy, it is absolutely defunct. For instance, the Khadi and village industries commission has very ironically placed ‘technological development’ as its main aim. It’s ridiculous! While the intrinsic brand value of a product is that it is handspun, at a policy level you are favoring its technological development. The mandate has completely shifted to simply providing employment at a village level.
No matter how! You can’t put Khadi which is sold by ‘appointment only’ in Paris, along with a transistor repair shop in India. You can’t.
In India, we have a form of manufacture which is different from district to district. it is a layered issue. For Instance, KUTCH is very successful in handloom sector. They produce enough for themselves,their families ,the region and for export.
Man to Machine?
It has become a perception now that faster technologies are better. Handloom in India,even now, provides the second largest source of livelihood in India,next to agriculture. There is willingness among craftspeople to remain in their crafts if provided a certain opportunity and economic viability.
Indian women today still get their own clothes made – from buying their own fabric to going to their neighbourhood tailor. It amounts to independent assertion in visual culture and identity which doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. When a culture informs a nation’s story, it needs to also inform technology that can be relevant.
Handloom and today’s fashion?
Today , Countries and cultures that have lost handmade products revere it immensely, and you can command prices internationally that you can’t do in India. A product that is differentiated should be able to give far more prices than mechanized fabric.
Finishing is quality, color fastness is a quality. Standard is not a value of hand technology. It’s a fascinating opportunity and we can rise to it if we are able to understand that we can’t survive the quality as mechanized fabrics can. And people get it. Louis Vuitton tied up with Bono and his wife, for a brand called Eden where they source from small producer groups, craft groups and self help groups from around the world.
Viability of Handloom in Indian Domestic market ?
Malkha is creating its own yarn to address the basic problem of yarn. It is made in a vertically integrated, decentralised unit; everything is done in the village. You are cutting down fuel, transport, retail, branding – all other associated costs and giving the beneﬁt to the weaver. Malkha has shown that it can compete with mill made fabric.
Apart from FabIndia, there is no other major retail chain that sells handloom. And even FabIndia has gone the powerloom way to an extent. Business has to see the retail opportunity.
Brand like Anokhi have a craftmark, but the only thing handmade is the block print, textile is mill made.
The intrinsic nature of handloom is that it is done in villages. The businessman in Nariman Point or NCR has to go to the weavers. The only attractive business to go out of India is handloom and textiles. It isn’t unattractive because there is no remuneration or business opportunity, it is unattractive because it takes effort. Nowhere in the country has an organised effort to go work with artisans in villages failed. Business needs to put its ear to the
ground, instead of superimposing paradigms.
In Dastkar Bazaar of New Delhi, you will see wives of clerks from North Delhi as much as those in Mercs. People pick up keychains, notebooks, little things – products that have become unimaginative – craft gives them that extra. If you have those wooden spoons in front you, you will start ﬁnding plastic spoons not giving.
These are the things that we have grown up with. We need to bring these into an everyday lifestyle
and take it forward.