India is the richest source for handloom fabrics owing to its strong legacy. It also contributes sizeable revenue to the Indian economy. However, instead of growing, the sector is depleting at 30 per cent year-after-year due to its unorganised nature. There are many traditional weavers and master artisans who have perfected this art through inheritance or their skilful nature. Although the Government has been lending massive support to the sector through several incentives and initiatives, poor exposure or the absence of a proper framework have led to the sector not being able to tap its full potential.
On the other hand though, the handloom and handicraft industry has undergone a lot of changes. From upgrading the quality of products to reaching out to new markets and consumption centres, a lot of young start-ups and leading fashion designers are pursuing the handloom industry because of traceability, sustainability, circular fashion, slow fashion, green and eco-friendly characteristics. Global fashion capitals in Milan, Paris, NY, HK, and London are responsible for setting such trends that are strengthening and promoting the handloom industry globally.
Inde’Loom: Helping artisans reach the masses
There is one such brand that is setting the example for other players in the market by providing employment opportunities to artisans whose work has till now been widely under-appreciated and exploited. Inde’Loom, Inde’ as in French for India and ‘Loom’ for artisans’ tool to show their skill to the world, carries a wide product range, 90 per cent of which is handlooms and handicrafts. The name revolves around showcasing what can be done by the looms of India to the whole world and its heritage twinned with modern-day elements. The brand’s slow fashion collective ‘Created with Love’ showcases ethnic weaves which are indigenous, minimally traceable with a fusion of style from Master Artisan and Designers.
The brand works with sustainable and natural yarns to bring out apparels for women, fabrics in bulk for fashion houses, home décor (wall mounts, artefacts, linens, hand-painted fabric drawings), bed linen (for domestic and export markets, quilts, pillow covers cushion covers), and fashion accessories (handmade jewellery, handbags, hand-embroidered exclusive bags ) to name a few. All our products are handmade and handcrafted, use handloom fabrics for global women shoppers across the world, and are between the price range of Rs 1,999-12,999.
Working in harmony
Talking about the hard work that went into creating trust with artisans before the launch of the brand, Suren Chowdhary, Founder of Inde’Loom, said, “Before our launch, we spent an entire year interacting with artisans from Kashmir to Bhujodi in person. We lived in their villages, shared their culture, trained them, and got them the right products for the shelves. At the grass-root level, we identified many highly skilled artisan weavers, painters and up-skilled them to roll out best of high-value designs. Today we have partnered and employed more than 250 weavers and artisans from the length and breadth of the country.”
It can be quite a task to get artisans who have worked in set patterns for ages on end to deliver modern and contemporary aesthetic. Inde’Loom has, however, partnered with and hired top-notch talent in textile design, fashion design, and staff to liaison at the cluster level. The team of in-house textile designers defines yarn compositions while fashion designers lay out the latest patterns and silhouettes for designing purposes.
Currently, the teams are experimenting with great lightweight fabrics such as Organza, Tussar/Bangalore silk fabrics which weigh less than 30-40 grams each per meter. Meanwhile, the artisans are trained and up-skilled regularly with our workshops every month on new textile handloom weaving techniques developed by the company and also on fashion design trends and colour palettes that appeal in the global and Indian markets.
For easier communication and managing their inventory, the team has come up with strategies, “We have even made some of them tech-savvy by teaching them how to use the smartphone. They communicate with us via WhatsApp by sharing high-definition videos and images of their work,” Chowdhary commented.
“Our Maker-To-Market-Collective model ensures that the artisans manufacture directly while we keep an inventory with us based on orders. All our fabrics and their end-to-end lifecycle is managed by our staff with our weaver bases and artisans,” he added.
Although the start-up has not received any public funding yet as the industry is going through a hard time, they have managed to raise certain amounts through private funds. Next on the plate for the company is expanding online presence throughout the country along with moving to international markets. The turnover for FY 2018-2019 was Rs. 98 lakhs.