Indian handlooms have woven their way through a rich legacy dating back to ancient India. From cotton ikkat weaves to heavily embroidered Benarasi silk saris, India’s exquisite handloom textiles have the world in awe.
Our country’s handloom industry, which promotes the ‘Make in India’ vision, has mushroomed in various regions. Moreover, each has its unique variation of this timeless craft.
But over time this historic art form had seen a decline due to many reasons. Firstly, the easy and affordable availability of fast fashion is a major reason. The fast fashion industry has grown drastically over the past few decades and is still growing. But there are many brands and individuals who are coming up and doing their best to revive and save this age-old art. The handloom art is unique to each region of the country.
Here are 8 brands that are doing their best to support and enhance the handloom industry:
Dr. Amol Patwari and Pallavi Mohadikar Patwari, a husband-wife duo started this venture back in July 2017 in Pune. Also, Pallavi has a family background in weaving as her grandfather was a weaver from Vidarbha. Growing up she saw her grandfather create beautiful artistic clothing pieces from mere yarn and subsequently it caught her interest. She also saw him struggle as a weaver artisan to support his family financially.
After graduating from IIM Lucknow and subsequently her past inspired her and her husband to take this entrepreneurial plunge. They started off with a team of 5 weavers and now work with more than 1, 500 weaver families and aim to onboard more in the future.
Along with a huge collection of traditional handloom arts such as Kanjiwaram and Paithani, Karagiri also has a variety of new and trendy handloom designs for the new age customers.
Buy it from: Karagiri
2. Inde’ Loom
Suran Chowdhary and Tholi Sandhya started Inde’ Loom in 2018 with the core purpose revolving around improving the lives of the artisans from rural India by making the market more accessible to them. The brand identifies as a Maker-to-Market fair trade startup.
Inde’ Loom seamlessly interlinks the traditional rich Indian heritage with the more modern-day elements of fashion, trends, colours, and patterns. The brand aims to replace fast fashion trends. Also, each saree takes up to 2-3 months to be completely ready. The pandemic did affect the business, but they plan to triple their customer base in the next year.
Buy it from: Inde Loom
Aditri was started by Pratima a New Delhi-based entrepreneur back in 2018. It is a lifestyle e-commerce startup that sells various handmade products such as clothing, jewelry, and other arts and crafts.
It’s a social entrepreneurship brand that focuses on training underprivileged women in the art of weaving and stitching. It also owns a facility in West Bengal. Because of this initiative, there are many women who earn all year round and are able to financially support their families. Aditri has a significant international market share.
Each Aditri creation is unique and sourced from various artisans all across the country. Aditri also curates this unique collection by keeping their philosophy of ‘keeping real things in life alive’ in mind.
Buy it from: Aditri
4. The Indian Ethnic Co
Lekhinee and Hetal Desai, a mother-daughter duo started The Indian Ethnic Co out of their love and passion for Indian handlooms and handicrafts. Also, to note is that none of them have a fashion or entrepreneurial background. While Lekhinee is a Home Science major from MS university Baroda, Hetal is a professional Odissi dancer and has an MBA Marketing degree from NMIMS Mumbai.
The brand also aims to display the vivid and timeless collection of traditional Indian handlooms and handicrafts from the various hinterlands of the country. It also aims at making it more accessible to everyone across the globe. They have also added their personal contemporary twist to the traditional designs of the fabric and art.
Buy it from: The Indian Ethnic Co
Tata Chemicals Society For Rural Development (TCSRD) with the help of SHGs in the villages of Okhamandal Gujarat. Okhai offers handcrafted apparel and lifestyle products created by rural artisans from across India. These artisans are gifted with the talent and traditional skills to craft exquisite designs in styles that are unique to their culture and heritage.
Okhai products offer contemporary designs, all reasonably priced. Also, all the proceeds from sales help these artisans help themselves – Okhai’s mission is to encourage women from less privileged backgrounds to acquire new skills; to give them the self-confidence and self-esteem required to earn by their own industry and initiative, and to enable them to carry this newly discovered skill and confidence into the wider world. Okhai also understands the rich culture and traditions that these rural communities are steeped in and translates this heritage into products by pairing traditional art with contemporary designs and modern processes.
Buy it from: Okhai
6. Roots Handlooms
Roots handlooms aim to bridge the gap between the weavers from the towns of Chanderi, Maheshwar, and Bagh from Madhya Pradesh and the consumers. They noticed that the intricacy and the sophistication of the art were appreciated by many but it wasn’t easily accessible.
Their product range currently includes Chanderi, Maheshwari, and Bagh hand block print sarees. Their vision is to share this heritage with the world.
Buy it from: Roots Handlooms
Chidiyaa is for the free-spirited, the one who finds clothing as a form of self-expression. In addition, they believe in the beauty of handmade products, where every product spells the distinct uniqueness of the artisans that have worked with them. Chidiyaa also aims to unravel the Indian heritage and take the wearer on a fashion journey that has a story, essence, and legacy.
Above all, they understand that style is personal and individual, and their designs reflect that. The prints and weaves are designed by in-house designers and after that, it is curated by artisans across villages in India. From exclusive hand blocks from the desert of Kutch to the timeless weaves from Andra and the royal silks from Banaras, they aim to bring age-old crafts with a niche contemporary twist. Chidiyaa also believes in sustainability and eco-friendly fashion ensuring high-quality standards.
Buy it from: Chidiyaa
iTokri is a space that celebrates collective creativity. An idea that believes each one of us has that spark to color life and the world in our own strokes. It is the story of reclaiming diversity of having a million narratives.
It nurtures and gives space, light, and love to the emerging and ancient vibrantly creative spirit of India. Moreover, that spirit is throbbing to give birth to edgy, yet warm, designs and products. iTokri believes that creativity is always about new, tiny, almost invisible initiatives. It needs to be shared to grow and find space in people’s hearts. Small towns and villages do not have the diversity of people or the financial market to support such creativity.
Buy it from: iTokri
What does the new generation have to say about it?
Yamuna Nandala founder of SR Uniques Handlooms says, “The handloom sector of India is known all over the world for its uniqueness and intricate design. The tradition of hand weaving is a part of our country’s cultural heritage and symbolizes the Indian way of life. Also, the Indian weavers have the unparallel ability to design intricate artistic and attractive products by use of handlooms. Now our designs are not restricted to traditional, we are breaking our boundaries and making them more stylish, and modern and bringing a whole new perspective. Subsequently, with the increase in eco-friendly concepts, we are ready to give you what you want!”
Apart from these established brands, the pandemic saw a raise in many small businesses. These small businesses were started by individuals who saw the artisans in their regions struggling during the lockdown. Many of these small-town artisans found it difficult to reach their consumers as tourism was down and that’s when these small businesses took it upon themselves to help the artisans reach more people via the internet.
Here are a couple of small businesses that you can support:
Aashra has been in the handloom industry since 1940, they digitized their traditional business in early 2021 by adding a contemporary taste to the artisanal products of rural Bengal. Co-founded and headed by two sisters, Tanisha and Trishna Guin, Aashra is based out of Gadighat in Paschim Medinipur, West Bengal. Their vision is to revive the grace of traditional six yards into contemporary attire.
“Slow and meaningful creation and consumerism are eventually going to shape the handloom and textile industry. Through Aashra, we are reviving the lost craftsmanship of rural Bengal by aiding artisans to own their art and offer products that have a story and a creative value to them. Also, every Aashra handloom weave comes with skill, tradition, and love. Above all, it is a colourful melange of conventional skills and unconventional products. At Aashra, we aim to spread the love for artisanal products in India and beyond”, says Tanisha
Contact them at: Aashrashop
SR Unique Handlooms
Yamuna Nandala, an MDB graduate from SSSIHL, started this small business with a collection of unique handmade sarees from artisans near Hyderabad. Her aim is to help the local artisans reach a larger audience base and for the customers to get value for money. She aims at bringing back the traditional attire in mainstream fashion even with the younger generation.
Contact them at: SR Unique Handlooms
We hope this inspires you to take a step towards more sustainable and artisan-friendly fashion.
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