The Indian fashion is being termed as haute couture as its handloom saris and dress materials are making a huge comeback on the national and international stage. With various fabric designers weaving a modern twist to the indigenous handlooms, OrissaPOST interacted with a few of the prominent couturiers in the city to know how they are reviving the handloom products and what future holds for these products.
Famous designer Sudeshna Majumdar said, “Initially, Gandhiji urged all to wear khadi, but due to modernism it lost its lustre somewhere. Now, with Swadeshi back with a bang and handloom fabrics making a comeback, people are more interested in wearing handloom fabrics. The best example of this is actress Vidya Balan whose closet is full of handloom saris and so is the wardrobe of actress Kiron Kher. Even actress Nandita Das wore a khadi during her Cannes festival appearance which substantiates the craze of the hand-woven merchandise. I have been in contact with many weavers as my brand Duheeta deals with Bishnupuri silk, Tussar from Bastar tribes, Muga silk, Madhubani, Begampuri of Bengal, Crepe silk from Kashmir, Mithila saris, Madhubani by weavers of Bihar, Pochampally silk Ikkat, Kotpad and many more. The real pain is when buyers claim to have bought good linens for mere Rs 1500, which is not possible. To uplift the weavers’ condition buyers must understand what the thread count is and how much time it takes to make a sari.
She said, “My Muslim weavers in Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal refuse to be photographed as they firmly believe that it is their work that sells like hot cakes and not their faces. However, in reality, these weavers are living much below poverty line and as a designer I feel overwhelmed by their condition. The only progress and development for them which I can do is to promote their work in my brand of saris and to get them back to limelight which they truly deserve. My clients do not buy any kind of machine-made saris and a huge portion of my profit goes to the welfare of these artisans and their families.”
Another designer Nikita Nayak said, “I am here to promote Pasapalli from western Odisha as I personally believe many of these weavers are hardly benefited from the government beneficiary programmes for handlooms.”
Rekha Ujjawla, who has been doing Pasapalli work for last 20 years at Bargarh, said, “All the stuff are in pen and paper, nothing happens in reality. A mere certificate and 20,000 cash award in last 20 years doesn’t help me to run my household.”
Designers Mitalee and Smeeta Jesthi said, “The horrible living conditions of the genuine weavers of the hinterland of Odisha need to be developed by immediate government actions. Many programmes were just on paper, which never saw the daylight. There are very few designers who are truly helping these master craftsmen as duplicate saris of such handlooms are available in the market. Therefore, it is becoming vital to make the clients aware of the real products right from the handlooms.”
However, contradicting all these claims, Handloom Minister Snehagini Churria said, “Odisha Government is possibly making all efforts to help its weavers come into limelight through Skill India programme and various weavers’ service centres in the state will also help out weavers in different districts of Odisha.”
CHAITALI SHOME, OP