‘Making a collection doesn’t make us designer, making a living for those who help us in making the collection does’.
This statement over a cup of coffee with designer Mayank Sehgal on the ongoing discussion over the Handloom Amendment Act, was not merely an eye opener, but beyond that. We talked to the new generation designers who work closely with the sector and even those who do not, to understand what they have to say about the new handloom act and if they had any solution.
Discussion: Textile Industry comprises three sectors i.e. handloom, power-loom and mill and each has their own identity and specialisation. The ongoing talks regarding amendment in the handloom sector will make the situation worse and it will lose its USP as the original, pure form of fabric made by weavers by applying their skills and aesthetic sense needs preservation not destruction. The vested interest to bring amendment in this act lies among power-loom lobbyists who wants to blur the difference between handloom and powerloom to claim the benefits and will take away the livelihood, skill, talent that our handloom industry is proud of. If the amendment comes, the weaving community will lose their source of income and this art will cease to exist.
This is a tactic by the power-loom sector which accounts for 60% production of fabrics and wants to capture the whole market by converting the hand-loom sector into power-loom. Power loom sector is of course a big area, it’s faster than handloom, produces in bulk and is totally profit-driven. They want their products to appear like hand -made by realizing the huge potential in and outside India. I would say it’s a business strategy of the power-loom lobbyists to maximize profit by ignoring the age-old traditional hand-loom sector by putting pressure on the govt.
Solution: I am strongly against any such amendment that will destroy our ancient heritage of hand loom. The handloom sector is also attached to our culture, sentiment and emotion along with livelihood of thousands. I would like to suggest that instead of bringing any amendment in the handloom act government should help and encourage the weavers both financially and technologically to take this traditional sector to another level by spreading its charm across the world.
Karan Berry & Leon Vaz
Discussion: Ironically, instead of uplifting them, we are killing the art of hand woven products. I think we are neglecting the ‘INDIA’ we are known for. These detailed weaves which are beautifully crafted where stories of their (weavers) lives are woven together to create a master piece is the real India. And it’s not going to be any good if the powerlooms take over this. Everything can’t be converted through the use of machinery. Tomorrow we’ll have digital software to replace painters and artist. Would we like that? Obviously NO. These weavers are like painters and they deserve their due credit.
Technically, indeed it will be helpful to them (power loom), because they will be the sole rulers of the handloom industry, everything will become commercial and there would be no value for the pure art. The power loom industry is a big sector and what would one get in capturing the small handloom sector? It’s a level of insecurity among them which is making them do this.
Solution: We as a label think, the Government should safeguard the rights of the handloom industry, give them more benefits and a better platform to help and promote them. One way to do this can be through encouraging more collaboration with designers, as it results in better display of the art..
Discussion: It might be surprising for others, but from my experiences and visits to villages, I have seen a huge demand for handloom products not just in rural but urban India too. And it shows clearly in the discussion where powerlooms are trying to make their fabric look handmade. Why would someone do that if they are good at what they do? Certainly they are trying to take away the huge market of handloom and advantages to their targeted markets where it is easy to make it expensive which leads to more profit.
Solution: We as designers, be it fashion or textile, can make the mass understand the worth of handloom. I don’t know about DCH but designers have already started taking the responsibility to enhance the image of handloom products. Shifting handloom industry to powerloom might sound easy but what about the people who have been in handloom industry for long? Do you think changing their course of work is easy? Will they adapt to powerloom? Is there any assurance about their employment?
Somewhere, we designers have been at fault too. People haven’t been treated well in the handloom industry. We are always concerned about our time and money but never about theirs. Because of which their next generation are not willing to take up hand loom work as their living.
Discussion: People might call it a controversy; I don’t wish to term this a controversy. I would prefer to call it a discussion. Handlooms are definitely part of our culture and employ many people. It is a sensibility that we must nurture. What most people fail to understand is that once lost, these are skills we won’t be able to get back. Hence it’s important that we ensure that there are ways to nurture these skills and the craftsmen.
Handloom can never compete with powerloom particularly because of the labour intensive process it involves. And a struggling weaver finds it even more difficult to compete in a market that does not know the difference between a handloom product and a powerloom product. Hence it’s so important for the government to have laws that support the interest of the weavers.
Solution: Also in a larger perspective, it is important for us as a country to start supporting the handloom industry. A sense of appreciation for the handlooms and the handmade products need to be inculcated among the children. Awareness of the processes involved in the making of these wonderful fabrics should be created among the people (and customers) in order to create appreciation of the product. At the same time, designers should also work with such skills and create products that are unique to the handloom sensibility.