In a Franco-Indian artistic fusion, organisations are reviving and popularising Indian weaving techniques globally. While India masters the craft of weaving, France offers expertise in tailoring and fabric manipulation; thus creating a product that introduces something new to both the markets.
The Indian textile sector is one of the largest in the world, and handwoven Indian fabrics have been revered worldwide for centuries. However in recent times, despite global demand, the influence of handwoven commodities in the international market have become limited due to limited supply and lack of innovation.
Textile art in India is skill based. Distinct textiles are found in different parts of the country where each region lends its own unique craft. Despite holding a high buying power, consumers both in India and abroad spend money on international and designer brands as opposed to Indian artisan products. Indian crafts get bracketed under an ‘ethnic’ status, because of which many consumers have stereotypical ideas about their look and usage.
As Indian textile art is becoming stagnant, initiatives by the government and private organisations are helping the art gain momentum yet again. One of them is Ekaya – a brand rooted in Banaras, involved in promoting and safeguarding the art of Indian hand weaving, including the revival of forgotten fabrics and patterns.
For the Paris Haute Couture Week last year, fourteen stylists from C’Couture Paris (French Federation of Custom-made Couture Creation in Paris) worked with Ekaya’s traditional Banarasi silk to make a collection of ivory wedding gowns.
After a successful exhibition in Paris, C’Couture again teamed up with Ekaya to create the ‘Cousu d’Or’ (sewn with gold) collection that was exhibited in Delhi in March 2018.
The collection showcases talent and know-how of the creators and as well the richness of Indian textile heritage, such as the refinement of chikankari – an embroidery technique from Lucknow.
“We did not want to make Indian clothes because our idea was to take them to the European clothing, just to see how we can work with these materials. In order to highlight refined and luxurious side of these fabrics, to give a new dimension to rich Indian materials and to show all the possibilities they offer for a European fashion confection. It is about breaking stereotypes about Indian fabrics and to expose them differently – as pieces of art and to show how to use them,” says Daniel Martin, secretary, C’Couture Paris.
The ‘Sewn with Gold’ exhibition that showcased the best of both worlds was a hit, be it with the fashion professionals, or students of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi. So much so, an exhibition in Berlin is also underway.
Another entrepreneur who is reviving the Indian textile art is Nil Gandhi, Director at Sourcing World Products (SWP) – a textile buying agency based in Paris and having operations in India.
SWP assists in sourcing, production and logistics of textile products in India, and helps brands across the world to develop ready to wear, accessories and home textile collections. “We have a good mix of Indian know-how and French fashion. We are thus able to promote Indian hand-weaving in a unique manner,” says Nil Gandhi.
Despite initiatives to revive the art, a lot of the new generation is not continuing with their family’s weaving business because of lack of respect for the skill. “Having fewer people weave is going to result in the industry to die no matter how much business we create, so it is also important that the government focuses on turning this into a proper profession, which encourages more business development in the sector”, Palak Shah, CEO, Ekaya, told Media India Group.