With many women giving up the traditional sari for more contemporary attire,the ancient craft of handloom sari weaving is an endangered skill. But thanks to the passion of a handful of of people, like Mira, the sari and its weavers are being given a new lease of life.
The Handloom Crusader
Mira Sagar is a Handloom Crusader who has embraced the sari in its original form. Her saris come straight from a weaver’s handloom made with a skill that is passed on from generation to generation . Thanks to modern machines, this traditional industry which is labour intensive and time consuming was finding it hard to compete with its modern counterpart. Thus faced with a diminishing market , many weavers were ready to turn in their looms for more mundane but reliable sources of livelihood . They took to running kirana shops or paan stalls!
Mira first met the weavers of Maheshwar during her stint with an NGO . She was amazed that this town once famous for its saris had just about 70-80 weavers still practicing this craft.
Something had to be done !
Breaking away from the traditional mould of dark earthy colours like maroon and green that typified the fine gossamer-like fabric, Mira introduced a hitherto unheard of colour palette – pale, delicate pastels that complimented the fine fabric. Equally, they were hesitant to use unconventional yarns like tusser, jute and even linen.
But as the brand began to be recognised and valued , other weavers jumped on the band wagon .
One step ahead
Mira had to be a step ahead of the imitators . She expanded her product range to include dupattas, stoles and yardage. She developed a special block printing technique that couldn’t be replicated . But above all, she worked towards creating an awareness and passion for this product among and a younger audience. Targeting women in their late 20’s to 40’s ensured that the industry would last for another generation. These exquisitely woven fabrics strike a chord in fashionistas who are passionate about the sari and handloom fabrics.
Retail is essential for sustainability
However , mere innovation, design and quality control weren’t enough : retail was equally important . Of what use is a product if there is no one to buy it ? And what was the point of merely reviving a skill ? It had to be a sustainable activity. Thus began Vaya Weaving Heritage a vibrant retail activity that Mira established with her business partner . Today the store has 7 outlets in the major Indian cities. Remaining true to the Maheshwari handloom, Vaya has expanded to stock other handlooms. It now sources fabrics from weavers in Hyderabad , Kanjeevaram and Bengal too.
Using better quality yarn, innovative techniques and and a design aesthetic that appealed to the young and trendy, Vaya has changed the image of a Khadi crusader to one of a sophisticated urban lady.
Today almost 500 workers are weaving for Vaya alone . With the revival of the handloom industry many more weavers have gone back to the loom and are busy weaving dreams for the discerning fashionista. Many sleepy towns are now back on the fashion map with crusaders like Mira helping them along.
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