Hand-woven textiles are the backbone of the luxurious Indian couture, and to celebrate the fine craftsmanship created from numerous humble looms across the country 7th August is celebrated as the National Handloom Day.
Since the pandemic lockdown and more recently the floods, the weavers and artisans of India have been facing unexpected financial challenges in sustaining their livelihood. While Indian fashion brands and designers struggle to make ends meet, many of them haven’t forgotten to look after their craftsmen and weavers in times of economic slowdown.
Making India ‘Atmanirbhar’
Designer duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla
The only way to mark National Handloom Day is to cherish and treasure our exceptional living legacy of handloom, the artisans, and craftspeople believes designer duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla. “We must re-dedicate ourselves as consumers and creators to protect and promote handloom through abundant use of handloom in our design expressions, and in our patronage as consumers. Wear handloom with the pride it deserves. Our diverse, exceptional, original, handcrafted weaves are a national treasure. It is an unparalleled and living legacy and must take it into the future. May we safeguard the rights and value the role of our exceptionally skilled weavers who work wonders with their looms,” opines the duo.
Dignity of labour
This entire period has been nothing short of a nightmare for the handloom weavers of Varanasi. The clanking of the loom was replaced with pin-drop silence, but patrons like designer Smriti Morarka of the label Tantuvi did her bit to bring the essentials into their homes. She says, “The state government, I must say, was extremely forthcoming in providing sufficient food grains to the marginalized, hence meeting their basic needs wasn’t the biggest challenge. It was the loss in fruitful occupation as a result of diminished demand, which was the real de-motivator for these weavers. We took a step forward and took on more budgeted projects from clients, which ideally our looms would not have the time to do in normal times. This helped us give these artists both dignity and meaningful occupation.”
Similarly, designer Gautam Gupta of the label Asha Gautam, who calls his weavers an “extended work family”, ensured that work didn’t stop for anyone. He shares, “The times were tough but last year’s lockdown made us prepare better. We made sure their basics like food, medical expenses, and working facilities were covered. As our designs are vintages and most weavers work from their homes, they were not sitting idle. I believe the handloom sector needs more and more design intervention to make it viable. We added a policy of basic pay to all the workers associated with us and also ensure they are vaccinated at least with one dose. Some funds were segregated in case any worker or his/her family faces tragic loss.”