WeaverStory is an online store for authentic Indian handlooms/crafts. Nishanth Malhotra, founder of Weaverstory, speaks to Fibre2Fashion on how the brand is promoting and preserving the dying art of Indian handlooms
When and how did you start WeaverStory? Why did you want to work with handlooms?
WeaverStory began its journey on August 8, 2015 on National Handloom Day to promote and preserve the dying art of Indian handlooms and also remove the perception of handlooms being luxury products as promoted by large stores.
How many weavers do you work with? Do you work with artisans directly?
We work with thousands of weavers directly to bring the best-handcrafted collection at affordable prices. Our main objective is to preserve the traditional Indian weaves while adapting to the needs of the new age requirements.
What is the percentage of women workers in the Indian arts & crafts community?
To date, there are about 68 lakh artisans in India and among them, 55 per cent comprise women. This contributes largely to the impact on women empowerment as well as the development of Indian art and craft community.
Which rare traditional weaves of India are you working towards preserving?
Banarasi, kanjivaram, ikats, patolas, bomkai are among some of the traditional weaves we are working on towards preserving.
How do artisans / weavers benefit from working with you?
We work with the ladies of our weavers and help them with required skill education through workshops on sari finishing, tassels making, etc ensuring they become financially stronger and independent.
Which are the most widely sold handlooms at WeaverStory?
Among the vast collection of handwoven saris, dupattas, and other wearables, kanjivaram silk has so far been one of the best bestsellers.
What new can be expected, be in terms of treatment, colourways, design or finishing?
We have been expanding our market with exhibitions and roadshows in other parts of the country to make WeaverStory an accessible brand. We are proud to share that we now have customers across the globe in more than 20 countries and are continuously striving to ensure high quality at affordable prices.
Is the competition in your line of business getting fiercer? How do you cope with the competition?
The competition in the fashion industry has always been fast paced. Keeping up with the fast forward changing trends along with our objective to preserve the heritage of the handloom industry, WeaverStory's most important element is to balance tradition with a modern twist and that has been our major factor in coping with the growing competition.
What is the perception of young India towards handloom?
The handloom industry has a lot of potential and young India is fascinated and excited to explore the depth of this industry where the real India lies. They have the zeal to blend the heritage of Indian handicrafts with modern technology and trends.
What needs to be done to keep Indian handlooms more relevant?
Indian handloom has gone through tremendous changes in terms of innovation and modernisation. Today, the handloom sector is considered to be one of the largest unorganised sectors and forms an integral part of the rural and semi-rural livelihood. The fashion industry should provide exposure to the handloom industry and educate the fashion experts as well as the upcoming fashion enthusiasts to use the skills of our weavers in their designs providing growth and empowerment to the Indian handlooms.
What are the challenges that this niche faces?
There could be so many factors that play in favour or against a particular trait. According to me, most of the problems are chronic ones, like inadequate supply of raw material, lack of institutional financial support, technological lag, problems related to marketing, indebtedness and poverty of handloom workers, etc.
Are you collaborating with any leading designers?
Handwoven makes each piece unique. Even the same design when repeated is never exactly same, that is the USP. Machines are competition but can't replicate difficult designs which involve intricate weaves and designs. The mind of any skilled weaver is developed by the experience they normally gain on the job, working with master weavers, dyers, etc over the years. Powerloom only does one part of the processing and still needs human mind to run it.
That is one of the reasons that handloom has been in vogue over so many centuries. To sustain growth for any product, the essentials are pretty much the basic. The key is to keep the weaver engaged economically.
How supportive are government initiatives and schemes towards the Indian handlooms' community?
The government is very supportive and that is why it is helping generate awareness in the Indian society. The change is slow with the help of social media and government initiatives. Campaigns like #100SareePact and #IWearHandloom are contributing to this. The government has brought up schemes and initiatives to promote and empower the handloom industry. Weaver Mudra Scheme, Hathkargha Samvardhan Sahayata (HSS) and many such schemes have been introduced by the Government of India.
This article was first published in the July 2020edition of the print magazine.
Published on: 20/07/2020
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