In an effort to revive the lost glory of Benarasi saris, a few top designers in the country have come forward to work with different weaver clusters in Varanasi to create exclusive silk saris which will be showcased in national and international stores.
The project, an initiative of BJP leader and designer Shaina NC, is likely to help the original sari make a comeback, replacing the Chinese and Japanese silk in the Benarasi sari market. Raw silk from China is thought to contribute 50-60 per cent of the sari-weaving market in Varanasi, mainly due to the price. While prices of Indian cocoon silk range from Rs 1,600 to Rs 1,800 a kg, the Chinese variety is available for Rs 1,400.
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According to Shaina, the who’s who in Indian designing — be it Manish Malhotra, Abu Jani, Ritu Kumar, Rina Dhaka, Rahul Jain, Varun Behl, Anita Dongre or Shruti Sancheti — have agreed to become part of the project. These designers will work with different weaver clusters in Varanasi to bring back “the old world charm” in Banarasi saris.
The designers are expected to set up factories in Varanasi. Shaina’s team already had discussions with all stakeholders including the shopkeepers in and around the weaver clusters. She had also met Union Minister of State for Textiles Santosh Gangwar to bring the project under ‘Make in India’ initiative.
The designers will be giving colour combinations, designs and will be free to put the price for their exclusive products. Others will be marketed at “moderate” prices.
If the project goes well, it will give employment to at least 1,000 people in Varanasi itself, said Shaina. Once it becomes successful, the designers will replicate the idea with other states, such as Paithani saris of Maharashtra and Sambalpuri saris of Odisha.
“The best of the creations will be showcased in all the stores in India and abroad,” Shaina said. According to her, the revival of the handloom sector cannot depend on the government only. “The private players can play a key role in improving design, marketability and the wages,” she said.
During his visit to Varanasi in November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a Rs 2,375-crore package for 16 sick cooperative banks to make loans easily available to the weavers in the region.
He had also laid the foundation stone of a trade facilitation centre and crafts museum for weavers.
The Prime Minister had urged the weavers there to “tap the huge market already available” for the Benarasi sari in the country. The facilitation centre is expected to be ready in a year. While laying the foundation, Modi had said: “Our artisans will be provided training here, near their own city, in modern designing methods, marketing strategies and all the skills that may be necessary for them to remain competitive.”