Save Handloom Foundation’s approach to revive the handloom Industry.
When human hands and heart work in tandem, that is grace in the making. Handwoven cloth has beauty and grace that is significant.
Save Handloom Foundation is a movement to bring awareness globally and in India about the need to shift to natural fibers.
India is home to more than 136 unique weaves, mostly in the form of sarees. Traditionally woven in cotton and silk, sarees are the backbone of Indian Handloom sector that is rapidly being replaced by machines and synthetic fibers.
The current generation of skilled weavers could be the last ones engaged in the handloom sector with the younger generation having moved on to newer industries.
The techniques of cultivating organic cotton, preparatory processes for weaving, the intricacy of weaving styles, use of natural dyes in dyeing fabric and printing techniques are all inspired by culture and region. This art form needs to be preserved so that the traditional knowledge is not lost. Traditionally, these sustainable methods have created their own ecosystems for empowerment of local communities, especially women.
Global Consumption of synthetic fiber clothing is a huge concern today, impacting not only the environment but also people’s health.
Save Handloom Foundation will create a platform for connecting weaver products directly to the market through our ecommerce website www.handlooom.com . It will also connect resources in design, natural dye interventions, market access, technical support and skill development.
A History of Indian Textiles
For a century during 1680-1780, Indian cloth was the most sought-after fabric in Europe, surging past even spices as the biggest export commodity. The English and Dutch imported a million pieces of cloth a year, and the French about 300,000.
Before the British Raj, weavers as a community commanded considerable bargaining power with merchants. The East India Company passed laws that forbade weavers from buying raw material and enforced selling finished products only to the Company. The Indian weaving industry was systematically dismantled. In 1834, the Governor General reported: “The bones of hand-weavers are bleaching the plains of India.”
The value of textile exports from India fell by 98% between 1800 and 1860 and the value of textile Imports increased by 6300% in the same period.
The Indian Textile Industry Today
Textiles are the biggest employment generator in India after agriculture. While this is reflected in the GDP and export figures, it has not effectively led to bettering the lives of the farmers, the hand spinners and handloom weavers.
India is home to over 136 unique weaves and scores of hand-dyeing and printing techniques. Of these, around 55 weaves are on the verge of extinction. Although India has a large share in world trade of cotton yarn, its trade in garments is only 4% of the world’s total. Handloom contributes nearly 15% of cloth production in the country, and India accounts for 95% of the world’s hand-woven fabrics.
Although the share of handloom in textile production is small in terms of percentage and revenue at present, it provides employment to 4.4 million weaver families including women in rural areas. If the handmade textile market is expanded globally and nationally, it has the capacity to provide employment to millions more and become an active participant in the $900 billion global textile/garment industry.
Natural Fiber vs Synthetic Fiber
As a part of the campaign, influencers and celebrities should be urged to commit to organic-handloom textiles in a way that at least 25% of their wardrobe consists of such fabrics.
Each state can rope in well-known designers and design houses to take on the role of ‘Textile Ambassadors’. Through their design ranges, they could play a significant part in showcasing some of the most quintessential fabrics of that state. These ambassadors can represent the state at various national and international events and prestigious avenues for exposure.
Every state in India is blessed with its own age-old traditional systems of weaves, prints and dyes. Until now, the onus of creating a market for these has been on state-run developmental agencies such as State-level Handloom Development Corporations and Apex Cooperatives with a handful of retail emporiums. These were successful in part but were unable to muster adequate business acumen and focus to sustain against the rigors of a market economy. Apart from this, scattered individual businesses have been operating in a largely unorganized sector. Procurement and retail sales have been on largely ad-hoc systems. Handloom fairs and exhibitions are the only regular platform for Indian weaves to get nation-wide exposure. In the past few decades, a few large businesses (FabIndia, Anokhi and Good Earth for example) have made an attempt to make textiles from various states available across the nation. But the sheer mind-boggling variety of styles and techniques available make stocking and retailing a major issue for these individual-backed businesses.
These fabrics are soft, supple, breathable and absorbent. They have a natural shine and are often compared to silk.
India produces around 23,000 metric tons of silk annually, out of which 81% is mulberry silk.
Natural Dyed Denim
Woven on hand-operated looms, natural dyed denim eliminates the high energy and water needs of conventional denim.
Made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linen is very strong, absorbent, and comfortable to wear in hot weather.
Natural Dyed Hemp
Hypo-allergenic, absorbent and fire retardant, hemp is one of the strongest and most durable natural textile fibers.
Famous by the names of Douppioni or Dupioni, it is also commonly known as raw silk.
This beautiful silk is very strong, combining the excellence of silk with the comfort of cotton and warmth of wool.
Grown from untreated cotton seeds, organic cotton is the first step in creating an eco-friendly cycle of garment production.
Muga silk is procured from a species of silkworms whose cocoons are known for producing gleaming, golden fibres.
What should be our approach?
Apart from active involvement from the government, individual designers, corporations and experts from the textile industry can make a meaningful contribution through the following initiatives:
Adopt a Weave
Natural Dyeing Infrastructure
Organic Cotton Farming
Public Charity Trust, Save Handloom Foundation e-mail: email@example.com