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Kancheepuram saree sector change with times

Nov '08
Kancheepuram sarees are one of India's most precious traditional treasures. The amazing craft of weaving exquisite silk sarees and adorn them with intricate gold and silver embroidery can match no other.

However, the impact of global recession can be seen on this industry as well. Besides, this traditional sector has been flourishing on its own foot, with very little attention from the Government.

And now, the situation is such that Government's support has become vital for the industry to keep up the healthy performance.

Ms Nirmala Devi, MD, Co-opetex, in communication with Fibre2fashion, informed, "Traditional Kancheepuram Silk Sarees is known for its heavy silk texture and gold zari ornamentation with Korvai weave and attached pallu. At the current cost of input, these sarees are priced within the range of Rs7000-Rs40,000. The market for Kancheepuram silk sarees is always directly connected with the wedding season in Southern India, which is usually from January to April."

However, she stressed, "The market for such high cost silk sarees is shrinking and mainly restricted to wedding purchases. The customers are looking for Kancheepuram silk sarees with less ornamentation in the price range of Rs3000-Rs5000."

Experts believe that the shift in demand is not just because of the high price, but also because in this modern world, women are opting for light-weight and subtle sarees.

Nevertheless, the sector is taking steps to go with the times and changing demand patterns.

The MD explains, "We are definitely facing problems due to changing market demand. However, the sector is slowly adopting new methods to produce silk sarees in economical way. The Korvai weave was also affected because of abolition of child labour and currently they are mainly producing plain silk sarees with less ornamentation. Considering the steep increase in the price of silver and gold which has resulted in high cost of pure silver and gold zari, it was only practical to use minimum zari. As an alternative, the use of texturised zari in the place of pure zari has also encouraged so that the intricacy in designs in Kancheepuram silk sarees weaving is maintained and simultaneously the cost of silk sarees is brought down to the economical price range."

Ms Nirmala says that weavers have been a little hesitant to let go of the traditional ways and adopt the new once so as to produce what the consumers want. "But, both Co-optex and Handloom Department is taking various steps like payment of incentive wages, advance supply of yarn and so on, to encourage production of silk sarees in economical price range of Rs3000-Rs5000. With this attempt, we are hoping to attract huge demand not only in the coming wedding season but also maintain a healthy consumption through out the year."

It is important that this sector, which provides livelihood to thousands of families, is backed by the Government in these tough times.

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