Gone are the days when handlooms were restricted to ethnic wear. Young designers are giving fresh perspective to this age-old textile and craft in the form of dresses, maxi-gowns and jumpsuits -- making it, in the process, more meaningful for today's generation."I find lots of young designers are trying to integrate responsible fashion into their ideas. The government is supporting these clusters as part of the Make in India campaign and I see a serious effort to try and focus attention on the plight of our craftsmen and weavers," designer Payal Khandwala, who launched her eponymous label in 2012 and works with handwoven silks, khadi, cottons and linens, told IANS."It requires patience and it is not without its challenges, but I find the fruit of the labour is well worth the while. I just hope this is not a trend and becomes an integral and ongoing part of the ethos for a brand and the consumer," she added.For designer Anita Dongre, India has a long and unique history of craftsmanship, with several indigenous crafts and practices passed down across generations of artisanal communities.
"From heritage Benarasi weaves that have an innate royal feel, to luminous, featherweight chanderi cottons -- finely-crafted handloom pieces will always win the creative battle over all things factory-made," Dongre told IANS."Moreover, India's handloom industry, unlike several other sectors, is innately environmentally conscious and responsible. It also provides artisans with a sustainable means of income in their villages... It's about time we put the spotlight back on traditional weaves and give handloom its due," Dongre added.The designer also said that there have been a significant growth in the interest in handloom and traditional weaves in the recent years."The active involvement and thoughtful initiatives of the government have accelerated the spread of this awareness. A lot of designers are creating conscious fashion using Indian textiles and crafts. Fashion schools are also doing fantastic work in sensitising the design community to these relevant issues. With Grassroot (one of her labels), we're going one step ahead and making sure fashion benefits the maker and the buyer," she said.
For designer Anavila Misra, of the eponymous brand Anavila, the beauty and comfort of handlooms, combined with contemporary silhouettes and designs, are making it a very high fashion, luxury commodity."I feel there is a very strong parallel voice of sustainable slow fashion emerging in terms of young designers. The changing roles and shifting paradigms of women in India have also created a new fashion voice which goes with the new Indian women breaking barriers, leading independent lives and always on the move," Misra told IANS.So, how is handloom attracting today's youth in terms of cuts and patterns?"Handwoven textiles are so versatile, almost any outfit can be made with them. Of course, it depends on the weight, drape and fall. Khadi jumpsuits, Matka silk palazzos, Brocade dresses, a Bhagalpuri silk shirtdress, Chanderi cotton silk maxis are great silhouettes that can be made in handcrafted fabrics," Khandwala explained.
The Anavila brand offers everything -- from a shirt, trouser to a formal suit and a sari -- in handloom."From a casual tunic for at-home lounging, to a formal sari for an event and a jacket for the office -- all are available in varied handloom designs to make your all-handloom wardrobe," Misra pointed out.She also felt that India is currently going through exciting times and so the future of handloom is bright."We have found our own voice and are confidently finding artistic expressions. The design landscape is full of young designers eager to work with Indian craft and textile heritage and create beautiful products which are a true representation of the unique skill-set of our artisans and weavers."This is resulting in unique products with their inherent USP. Handlooms and sustainable fashion have a strong future, as customers have shown great interest and embraced the same," Misra noted.