A look into our roots: Handloom heritage
Did you know that India has the world’s 95% hand-woven fabric? This is no surprise as there is hardly any part of India that does not have a handloom or handicraft unique to that region. The Indian handloom is exported to other parts of the world from ancient times. The Swadeshi Movement which asked people to boycott all British products, also brought the focus on the handloom sector, and helped the weavers and artists by making people aware about our rich 2,000 year old handloom heritage.
When globalization began, people found themselves being drawn to western fashion again. Amidst the changing western fashion trends, our handloom industry started losing its place in the market. Handloom weavers continued to struggle against the changes even when they were pushed into poverty and became vulnerable enough to be exploited by companies and brands that made them work for endless hours in exchange for some basic income. Many of these skilled craftsmen are now working as deskilled labor for basic livelihood, working as chai-wala or vendors.
Good news is that since the rise in demand of sustainable clothing, people have started to look for other clothing options and are rediscovering handloom again. Government is taking initiative to bring the limelight back on the handloom industry by schemes like Made In India. There are several designers and brands who are promoting handloom. This has led to new handloom fashion companies being born which is giving employment to these skilled craftsmen. Social media trends like #IWearHandloom is drawing the attention of the people to the handloom industry. National Handloom Day celebrated on August 7th has also created awareness about handlooms.
There are still several challenges the handloom industry is yet to overcome. To preserve our rich heritage of skills and talent, we need to perpetuate and promote it and enable sustainable livelihood for weavers. With the onset of sustainable fashion movement and the growing number of conscious consumers, we can hope to overcome these challenges together in time.