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NOTES FROM THE INTERIORS OF ASSAM

— Jasmeen Dugal

Having grown up seeing her mother wearing beautiful traditional weaves and realising its potential, Vaishali Shadangule left her hometown in Madhya Pradesh to study textile design in Bhopal and open a store in Mumbai with a bank loan of 50,000. Here, she updated Indian weaves with silhouettes relevant to the modern consumer… and there's no looking back since. She has opened her flagship in South Mumbai, employs several thousand artisans' and works with weaver clusters in Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra and Bengal to handcraft globally relevant ensembles. In conversation with the designer on one of her experiences with weaver clusters in Assam.

 

''After receiving a great response for the collection I showcased at Fashion Week, I had to get the required fabric for upcoming previews and completing orders. I tried to contact to the weaver who was supposed to be in touch with female weavers who were already working for me to deliver the fabric in Mumbai for production. But his mobile was switched off!! The anxiety was growing by the hour as there was little time left for preparations. Finally I managed to somehow get in touch with him but he told me he was not in town and would be away for a few more days!! It was an extremely tough task to communicate with him as he could only understand and speak Assamese. So I asked one of my friends to convey my problem to him and finally he agreed to be present there and accompany me to the weavers.

 

The day I reached Guwahati.. my anxiety grew double-fold because the weaver community was protesting against the trader community which were dealing with duplicate fabrics so nobody was ready to give fabric to outsiders as a part of their protest! I got worried because a curfew was declared for three days. So I went into the villages in the interiors that I had visited before and started a thread of communication to the weavers I was acquainted with. It was very overwhelming and a huge relief when they agreed to give me fabric because they believed in me and liked my work. There was no language barrier here as we could easily understand each other through creative language. They enthusiastically took me to a place where fifty-odd ladies from the surrounding homes were working together at the backyard of a house. It was amazing to see so many ladies working together while laughing and joking about domestic issues.. a place where no man is allowed! The ambience was a beautiful cacophony of the sound of the looms, the laughter and the animated conversation.  I stayed with them and spent amazing two days at their place.

 

The day I was returning from Guwahati I was carrying the fabric I required for production to complete my orders and memories of people who were very simple, genuine and friendly.''
 

 
 
 
 
14-APRIL-2020
 
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