Discovering India through its unique products

Discovering India through its unique products

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.com began its fascinating journey with a humble attempt to bring India a little closer to the world. Dedicated to creating a unique interpretation of age-old crafts, they partnered with artisanal communities, textile designers, independent artists to showcase a new, contemporary design language that comes from India and belongs everywhere on the globe. Be it the handmade sarees, dupattas, jewelry, shawls, home decor, art and more, the brand captures the beauty of the country in all.

Indian weaving traditions have existed since time immemorial and have been a representation of the many unique sub-cultures within the country. With motifs, patterns, and techniques of woven textiles changing every few hundred kilometers, they have given face and identity to the people of each region.

Preservation of Indian weaves is the need of the hour, not only because it has reached a point where the issue cannot be overlooked any longer if we wish to save it from where it is headed, but also because finally the world is taking notice of our immensely unique heritage, and the time is ripe for artisans and craftsmen to reap  zthe rewards instead of giving up on it. Today the weaving traditions are encumbered by challenges at various levels. Firstly, the younger generation does not find it financially viable anymore to learn the craft and continue in the family tradition, as the traditional marketplace (of exports, exhibitions etc.) is very limiting in its remuneration potential. The younger generation, across weaving families, no longer sees this as a sustainable earning avenue and is ready to leave behind a centuries old skill in search of other modes of earning in the modern economy. This lack of faith in the future of their family craft stems from limited infrastructure upgrades at the state, district and cluster level. In addition to this, the middlemen continue to extract maximum profits out of the little that is being produced.

Secondly, the handloom weaving industry is grappling with a burgeoning power-loom and mass production lobby that is threatening to tear down the market potential that handcrafted textiles once enjoyed. While the percentage of exports each year has gone up, the number of artisans are dwindling each year, thus pointing towards an authenticity issue in what is being pushed forward as ‘handmade’.

Thirdly, many artisan families do not have access to the design inputs that could make their traditionally woven textiles worthy of a premium price and allow them to stand apart in the marketplace as it stands today. There also exists is a gap in awareness with respect to handcrafted textiles. They’re seldom relegated to being the wardrobe choices of the very people who make them, thus being unable to cater to a wider audience.

Some other challenges that this community faces today are lack of adequate raw material,
basic infrastructure to operate their looms and a missing marketplace for the weavers’
products. For instance, a strong sericulture lobby in Karnataka has kept taxes on yarn high, leaving weavers in places like Benaras bearing the hefty costs of procurement, production and subsequent transfer of product to markets in larger centres like Delhi.

There have been steps taken to promoting textile revival. Skill development has begun at
the grassroots level by organizations such as Women Weave’s Handloom School (THS) in
Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh or Kala Raksha’s Somaiya Kala Vidyalaya in Kutch, Gujarat. Schools such as these have identified key skills like technology, marketing, etc. Their skill-based interface is allowing young weavers from across India to have access to contemporary marketplace tools that will keep their craft relevant and allow them to earn a living. In addition, there is a breed of revivalists and designers who are celebrating languishing textiles and crafts through contemporary interpretations that awaken us to their threatened survival. Their work is a testament to the reality that even if a handful of connoisseurs come together, these looms will not fall silent. The entry of other key e-commerce players—such as IndianRoots, Craftsvilla, Jaypore and others—in the handicrafts sector has raised hopes of empowering artisans across the country, giving them freedom to choose buyers who can offer them higher prices.

To keep these skills relevant to today’s web (and increasingly mobile) marketplace, Jaypore has also had the opportunity to mentor weaver students from The Handloom School. These interactions enable the future generation of weavers to understand the methodologies involved in building an online brand, and allowing them to go back to their respective clusters to begin working on these inputs. Going further, the physical infrastructure around weavers needs to change to allow them to work within a more conducive environment. For example, a model cluster can be created for Benarasi weavers with access to easy procurement, design and sampling base, funds for loom upgradation, small saving schemes, craft training, etc. In addition to these, brands
like ours (Jaypore.com) can provide a platform to showcase the designs that are born out of a collaborative approach, leading to both creation of and a response to a new market for old and yet redefined textiles.

Jaypore is committed to promoting handcrafted designs from India to the world. In line with this vision we are continuously looking to showcase the best-woven textiles (among others) in collaboration with artisans, designers and cooperative societies. While we will continue to market these collections, we are also developing our own label using textiles from across India and creating a signature style that will come to represent a very contemporary sensibility. Jaypore has been fortunate in being able to work towards reviving languishing textiles such as Telia Ikat of Andhra, Kotpad from Koraput in Odisha, Himroo from Aurangabad, Mushroo from Kutch, among others. Combining
these rare textiles with a contemporary design aesthetic has allowed us to showcase them to a global audience through our online platform. Alongside sharing the stories of these weaves, we have been able to curate collections in collaboration with noted revivalists like . These weaves are truly heirloom treasures that are very hard to come by and certainly belong in any textile lover’s collection. Our recently launched private label collections have been focused towards Ajrakh prints from Kutch and Bagru prints from Rajasthan. We are soon going to launch a line of apparel crafted using Kotpad weaves from Koraput in Odisha, woven by National Awardee artisans. Our design team travels extensively across India to collaborate with weaver-clusters and artisans and our future collections will see a representation from a lot many states over the next few months.

In a recent interview, Prime Minister said, “People, especially women, wear handloom clothes on social occasions, like marriages, and major festivals. We need to popularise this among the youth. This will give the much needed boost to the handloom sector.” This was his statement post his call to fashion and design institution to incorporate and focus on the country’s handloom tradition. Much needed initiatives such as this add to the confidence of the dwindling community and inspires them to flourish.

As the end consumer continues to be bombarded with information and multivariate
products each day, the trends will likely move toward combining handcrafted weaves with a signature, contemporary design language. Even as sarees move out of being boring occasion only wear to making a statement, there is a lot of experimentation with woven fabrics in apparel that is styled for a wider customer base. Creating customer awareness and promoting fair trade, organically crafted products will allow both weavers and designers to showcase and sell collections handcrafted in India on a global stage.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shilpa Sharma, Co-Founder, Jaypore.com
Of her corporate career of twenty years, Shilpa spent twelve years in retailing with Fabindia, eight years in FMCG marketing at Marico Industries and Cadbury’s. She quit a successful career to follow her dreams, and she is now living her dreams, that pretty much define the person she is. With her experience and learnings in the retail sector and her love for travel, she started three companies – Retail Consulting, Breakaway and Jaypore, within the next three years in three distinct domains.

She started Breakaway to share her love for travel, as she unearths what is waiting to be discovered and experienced, through travel to known and lesser known destinations in India and connects with the local craft clusters in these remote yet beautiful destinations. Shilpa now drives sourcing and curating India’s most beautiful products, for Jaypore, an online portal she co-founded with three others in 2012.