Union minister for textile Smriti Irani has taken to the microblogging site, Twitter, to promote handloom sarees with the hashtag #IwearHandloom and posted a picture of herself drapped in a handloom saree. A year or so ago, a group of women professionals from Pune, Mumbai and Bengaluru started a similar movement on social media, which by now has become a global phenomenon, involving over 4 lakh women.
Called the #100sareepact, the movement saw women taking to social media to share pictures of themselves draped in sarees, especially handloom sarees. Media professional Sonia Kulkarni, along with her friends Anju Moudgal-Kadam and Ally Mathan from Bengaluru, had started this movement.
“We wanted to bring the saree back into fashion and popularise it as an everyday wear,” she said. What started between friends, soon caught the popular imagination, with many others joining in. Soon, the hashtag was trending for days, with women taking to the social media to share pictures of their sarees. Then it graduated from being a social media trend and got its own website and special saree meet-ups were held where women met each other in cities in sarees.
Each and every post was accompanied by a story weaved around the saree. Kulkarni talked about women sharing pictures of sarees used by their mothers or grandmothers or rediscovering an antique saree and then sharing a picture of them drapped in it. “There were offshoots which saw women sharing pictures of handloom sarees only, or women talking about unique creations which are hard to find,” she said.
Debunking the many myths about the saree, Kulkarni said they found it both graceful and easy to use.
“A lot of innovations, infact, has been incorporated in to the saree which involves newer methods of draping and use of newer styles and fabrics,” she said.
Other than the sarees, the movement has also focused on the weavers, with many members interacting directly with the community. “The weavers as a community are really in need of some help, else it would be difficult for them to carry this art forward,” Kulkarni said.
The #100sareepact, she said, other than raising awareness about the garment, has also raised awareness about the weavers. “There is a nebulous plan to bring the weavers on a single platform or to develop an app for them. Without proper exposure, it might be difficult for the weavers to sustain their art,” she said.
With the minister herself promoting the handloom, Kulkarni hopes this will help revive the industry once again.
In response to Irani’s tweet, Kulkarni tweeted back, talking about their initiative. Irani on Twitter then asked the women to write to her to take the idea forward. “We have sent a mail to the minister about our initiative. Now we hope the government will take some concrete steps to help the weavers,” she said.