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UPLIFTING BANARAS WEAVERS' CRAFT

In an initiative by the government and some of the nation's distinguished designers, the Indian fashion industry aspires to revive the lost heritage of Banaras' textiles and create employment opportunities for the weavers. This campaign was embraced wholeheartedly by Varun Bahl, who shares with us, his aspiration to uplift Banaras weavers' craft.

 

''The state of Banaras' artisanal community before this campaign wasn't promising as it was a highly unorganised sector and the weavers' craft wasn't getting its due. Lack of business opportunity, less knowledge about the market and unwillingness of the younger lot to take up the craft had pushed the artisan community towards a slow demise. 

 

With this initiative, we're looking forward to the revival of Banaras weavers' craft. It's an opportunity for artisans to get their due recognition as artists tempered with improved wages and work opportunities. So far we haven't received financial support and it's our own effort and personal expense that we're ploughing into this project. Textile minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar and Shaina NC provided extended their support in terms of directly connecting weavers with the designers and retailers; this helps in avoiding middlemen which in turn benefits the weaver, who is the artist here. However, government support in terms of funding is absent at this point.

 

I'm often ask what sparked my vision to be a part of this campaign and I explain that weaving is not merely a craft; it is a heritage for our nation. As a designer who is deeply involved with artisans, it becomes an ethical responsibility for me to contribute in the revival of our rich textile heritage. Banarsi handloom and weaves are renowned Internationally. Since ancient times, the quality of Banarsi weaves has been India's pride. Now, it's losing the status it had, hence the need for revival has arisen. These people are not handloom workers; they are artisans, skilled to create beautiful pieces; they must be nurtured along with their art. We can help promote the craft by bringing their craft work into the mainstream market. The artisans can be guided in terms of market demands and design sensibilities existing in the market. This will help grow their business. Since we will now be directly in touch with artisans, it will help earn wages worthy of their effort. We would definitely like to consider long term plans for working with the weaver clusters. This is just a beginning and hopefully in the long run the government would support this initiative financially. We must also drive the growth of design in the region so that our creativity and sense of style filters down to the weavers. This will help bridge a yawning gap that over time, due to dated styles, has limited the appeal and the reach of handcrafted weaves. Of course, there are challenges in terms of resources and financial constraints but I am sure we can overcome this. In fact I'm looking forward to creating a capsule line with Banarsi weaves!

 

Reflecting on the state of fashion today, people appreciate the intricacies and value of handcrafted work. This will never lose its value and it can't be easily replicated or replaced. You would be surprised by the number of young designers who are reviving India's crafts and taking it into the future. Till recently, Indian designers wished to emulate the West but of late there's been a resurgence of 'India' among our designers — they have realized that our strength lies in what we have perfected over centuries: our hand embroideries and textiles… dyeing techniques and prints!!''

 
VARUN BAHL
 
 
20-JUNE-2015
 
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