Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yoga Journal "Guilt-Free Glitter"

Yoga Journal December 2009 Page 30

In Yoga Journal December 2009 issue a scarf produced by Indigo Handloom for Eileen Fisher was featured for their "Guilt-Free Glitter" segment. This scarf is gold "zari" (a yarn made from gold metal wrapped around a cotton core), cotton, and silk. It is hand-woven and has a shibori detail. Shibori is when the fabric is segmented and wrapped to create texture, it is commonly used as a dye technique, but in this case it is purely aesthetic. This scarf is being sold at Eileen Fisher locations, and as Yoga Journal says, it is a good guilt free holiday buy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Traditional Handloom Weavers Get Eco-Friendly

In this article by The Express, it is clear that the eco-friendly title is being more closely associated with handloom. In many ways, handloom is leading the way to sustainable products.

Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi checking out the artefacts at an exhibition organised by the Handloom and Handicrafts Today Karigar Society

CHENNAI: The eco-friendly bug has now caught the traditional Indian artisans, who have long been trying to draw the attention of the city dwellers to their products and capture the urban market for handicrafts.

Several NGOs like the Handloom And Handicrafts Today (HAST) Karigar Society that organised an exhibition of 35 product lines from 16 different States in Chennai, are educating the traditional artisans to use reusable and waste materials.

“The artisans use vegetable colour for block painting on their products, jewels and slippers made of jute and other fancy products using renewable and eco-friendly raw materials,” said the Secretary of HAST Karigar Society, Sarmistha Lahiri.

“The handicraft product that were usually known for preserving the country’s tradition and the source of income they provide for several economically backward families, will now have a new tagline to promote their market,” she added.

The sales manager of Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation Ltd (Poompuhar), Gopalakrishnan, said the State government has been stressing the need for renewable products for quite some time now.

“The government funded handcrafted products make use of re-melted brass scraps for making lamps and waster paper, which are then mixed with chalk powder to make paper dolls,” he said.

The Madras Craft Foundation has been conducting workshops for artisans on products made of renewable and waste products at the Dakshina Chitra.

“This trend of eco-products is picking up slowly as the workers are new to such raw materials and also lack funds to experiment on them.

Dyes from vegetables and wasted paper are the popular fields they are looking to develop now. The other developing area is reconstituting fibres from scrap fabrics,” said Deborah Thiagarajan, President, the Madras Craft Foundation.

Banana Fiber, Aloe and Hemp Lead Weavers To Create New Fabrics

Chennai, Nov. 2: A weaver in Tamil Nadu has come up with saris made from the fibre of banana stems, and a host of other natural products, apparently taking the cue from his counterparts in Bengal.

Today, thanks to C. Sekhar’s inventive mind, women willing to try out something new can also wear a sari made of the succulent plant Aloe vela, jute, hemp and a dozen other natural fibres.

Sekhar, 45, from Anakaputhur, a town about 45km from the Tamil Nadu capital, had read about jute being used to make saris in Bengal and began using the plant as a substitute for cotton to create linen material for a French exporter. That was about 10 years back.

“I then read about weavers in the Philippines using cloth out of fibre made from the stem of banana plants. I started experimenting and soon mastered the technique of extracting fibre after drying the pulp into thin strands. Initially I could weave only small segments and hence used the banana segment as the pallu. But now I have almost a dozen looms weaving full-length saris made of banana fibre,” he says.

The saris, which have a light lustre, are lighter and also breathe well, were an instant hit ever since Sekhar launched them two years back. The price varies from Rs 700 to Rs 4,000 as some customrs also want silk strands woven into them for visual appeal.

Asked if banana saris last, his wife Padma pointed to one that has been part of her wardrobe for more than a year. She had also washed it many times, the 36-year-old added.

A few months ago, Sekhar started experimenting with Aloe vera, a thick-leaved plant whose extracts are used in beauty products and herbal medicine, and managed to weave a sari out of its fibre. “It is even cooler and a customer who tried it out said “it is like wearing nature’,” Sekhar recalls.

So what led him to alternative natural fibres? The answer lies in the old saying: Necessity is the mother of invention.

Cotton yarn had become expensive and the arrival of powerlooms had virtually robbed handloom weavers of their livelihood.

Anakaputhur, once home to over 10,000 looms in the ’60s, has fewer than 400 now. Moreover, the staple product of the area, Real Madras Handkerchief — a six-yard-long, three-foot-wide brightly coloured cloth used as the national dress in Nigeria — went out of production after the African nation banned imports in the ’60s.

So Sekhar’s search for an alternative made him use fibres of virtually anything he could source from nature — jute, bamboo, pineapple, flax and reed grass. He is now weaving a single sari made of 25 natural fibres.

Sekhar sells his products through the local jute weavers’ association so that everyone profits from the venture and is also reassured that there’s money to be made from natural fibre.

“Unless the entire community gets involved, it would be difficult to revive the handloom industry to its glory days,” Sekhar says and swears that his two sons will be weavers like him.

Asked if he expected anything from the government, Sekhar said, almost reluctantly, money for research and decent housing for the weaving community. “We can take care of the rest.”

Hunger forces artisans to commit suicide

VARANASI: While the members of the consultative group of experts for handloom and handicrafts sectors constituted by the Planning Commission will review and critically assess the performance and progress of the programmes implemented by the development commissioner (handloom), the weavers of the famous silk industry of Varanasi region are exposed to problems like hunger and malnutrition.

Lenin Raghuvanshi of Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), who is also the member of the group, has documented suicide and death cases within the weaver community. According to him, over 100 cases of death, suicide, and malnutrition death of children due to acute poverty have been documented in last three years.

According to a rough estimate, due to slump in the silk industry about 60 per cent weavers abandoned their traditional occupation, and either migrated to other cities in search of livelihoods as unskilled labourers or became rsrickshaw pullers or brick-kiln workers. In 1995-96 there were 1.24 lakh weavers and 75,000 handlooms in the district, and it is estimated that about 60,000 handlooms are currently in operation.

Even the officials of handloom and textiles admitted that thousands of handloom units in Varanasi have been closed. They, however, claimed that the situation is improving with the programmes of the government.

According to KP Verma, assistant director (handloom), several intervention programme are being run for the economic and social development of handloom weavers.

The weavers are encouraged to take benefits of these schemes like Integrated Handloom Cluster Development (IHCD). The central government has begun a mega cluster programme for handloom weavers in Varanasi with an investment of Rs. 70 crore. However, the programme is yet to be launched. The mega cluster programme would cover about 25,000 handlooms.

Experts to Meet In New Delhi To Decide Fate of Handloom Weavers

Across the country, there are approximately :
- 3.5 million handlooms
- 6.5 million people are employed by the industry
- 62.4 % of the workers are women
- 35% belong to lower castes and native tribes.

However, the sector is beset with various problems such as:
-obsolete technology
-unorganised production system
-low productivity
-inadequate working capital
-conventional product range
-weak marketing links
-overall stagnation of production and sales
-competition from power looms and mill sectors.

Here is the full article

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Frei Design Lookbook Pictures

The pictures above are a sneak peak of Frei Designs' Spring 2010 lookbook.

Annie Novotny, creator of Frei Designs and loyal Indigo Handloom customer, uses only socially responsible fabrics.

The pieces shown here are made with: a hand woven striped khadi, and a hand woven silk that was hand batik dyed. Khadi is Indian term for fabric that is not only hand woven but is made from cotton yarn that is hand spun.

Batik is a process that involves painting a wax resist on the cloth, letting it crackle as it dries, then painting dye over the wax letting it fall into the cracks creating a crackle dye effect.

Frei Designs is based in Chicago and the collection can be viewed in their new retail outlet.
For more information, check out heir website:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Untitled 11:11- NY Fashion Week 2009

In this photo, Untitled 11:11 models are wearing handloom silk batik, handloom tassar silk with woolen inserts and handloom cotton with metallic 'zari' thread. Photo from Frank Gargione

One of the design teams we work with at Indigo Handloom is a young label called 'Untitled 11:11." One of the things we like about "Untitled" is their willingness to experiment with new fabrics. Many times, they create their own fabrics by mixing in new elements to our standard fabrics.

For their Spring 2010 collection, they created eight new unique fabrics by customizing the colors of the weft yarns. They then mixed all the fabrics together - sometimes within the same garment.

Their collection was inspired by the French Mediterranean Coast and was presented September 12th, 2009 at "Axelle Gallery" in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City.

There was a great turnout including critics from: WWD (Women's Wear Daily) and WWD described the Spring 2010 collections as "sexy skirts and bustiers with gorgeous details like cascades of chevron pleats and geometric panels."

A "Vogue Magazine" stylist labeled Untitled 11:11 designers, Laurel Anderson and David Peck, "the next big thing." The designs were both retro and fresh, but most impressive of all was their choice of fabrics. The design team were praised not only for the style and sensibility of their collection but also for the socially conscious nature of the handloom fabric used.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cambodia’s Handwoven Mats

Photo by Soeun Say
The Phnom Penh Post

The tradition of handloom exists in all parts of Asia. In Cambodia, hand woven mats have provided income, in some places, for five generations. At the height of the business, weavers could produce and sell 8 to 10 mats a day, selling around 200 to 250 mats per month, and even more during the wedding season.

The mats would sell for $4.00-$7.50 USD, which to Americans sounds like a very reasonable price for hand woven goods. The problems that Cambodian weavers are now facing are the economic crisis and the importing of Thai and Vietnamese machine woven alternatives which sell at lower prices.

Sales of the hand woven mats have decreased by 50% and as a result production is slowing down. Although the weavers would like to lower their prices to compete with the foreign machine made products, they are already making such a low profit margin that they cannot sell the mats for any less.

Instead of giving up, the weavers of Cambodia are petitioning the government for outside marketing advice. They hope that by integrating new designs and updating the old ones, they will attract customers back to their product.

Read Full Article

Handloom Textiles on the Decline in Philippines

Photo by Lindsay Mayhood

By Gina Areopagita
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Traditional handloom textiles are becoming a rarity in the Philippines.
Malong and Abaca are two forms of traditional hand weaving techniques in the Philippines.

“Asean Handicrafts” is the organization that has been charged with boosting the ancient industry back to life. The hope is that more demand for hand woven products would give indigenous people of the Philippines work as well as keeping a historic tradition alive. The Philippines traditional textiles are very unique and make wonderful apparel and home furnishing cloth.

At the end of October “Asean Handicrafts” is holding an exposition that will showcase traditional weavings. First they need to motivate the people of their country to support hand weaving, and they must next market to tourists.

Read Full Article

Daram- Handloom Apparel in Hyderabad

Picture from

Daram is a store based in Hyderabad, India. Daram, like Indigo Handloom, is passionate about handloom textiles. Daram exclusively carries apparel made from handloom fabric from India. Part of their mission is to support the handloom industry while also making superior quality garments. They educate their customers on hand woven fabrics and at the same time provide a steady market for handloom products.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Taylor swift in dress by Untitled 11:11
Fabric by Indigo Handloom

Up and coming fashion design duo, and customer of Indigo Handloom “Untitled 11:11,” just had one of their gowns photographed on Taylor Swift for the cover of UK’s Bliss Magazine. Co-founders and co-designers David Peck and Laurel Anderson designed the dress.
David and Laurel met at Parsons Design School in Paris and though they only started their fashion line last year, they are getting a lot of notice. They came to Indigo Handloom for fabric because they would like their business to be “socially conscious” which means they are aware of the hardships and problems in society and would like to do something about it. They see the benefit of buying handloom fabric because of the employment opportunities it creates for weavers. David and Laurel also utilize the design freedom that handloom fabric offers; the freedom of handloom is that because the minimum order amounts are so low you can design your own fabrics without too high a financial risk. They have participated in designing most of the fabrics that they have ordered from our handloom weavers.
The dress above is Indigo Handloom fabric, hand woven in India, the warp is clear lurex and the weft is cotton.

Untitled 11:11 Website

Socially Conscious Bond

Daniel Craig, the newest Bond
Picture borrowed from "Thundersquee" online publication

“The Hindu Business Line” reports that “Reid and Taylor,” fabric and apparel company from England, has decided to become a customer of handloom fabric.
“Reid and Taylor” is most famous for its association with the custom suits that movie character James Bond is seen wearing in the films. In the past they used Harris Tweed, which is a machine made Tweed exported from Scotland. They are now seeing the benefits of using and promoting 100% handmade tweed, called Kashmir Tweed. They report that the Kashmir Tweed uses a non-greasy long fiber that makes the fabric soft and flexible. In addition to the hand and aesthetic benefits of this beautiful fabric, handmade Kashmir Tweed it is also a fraction of the price of machine made Harris Tweed.
Below is the full article of “Reid and Taylor’s” interest in handloom fabric.

"Reid and Taylor" Interest in hand woven fabric.

Momotaro Handwoven Jeans

Momotaro Denim Jeans
Picture found on "Self Edge- New York" Online publication

Denim, the go-to fabric for American comfort and style is now getting recognition for being available as handwoven. “Denim News” reported that the company “Momotaro” is hand weaving the denim used in their apparel. The “Momotaro” showroom in Japan houses large floor looms where their denim is hand woven. Now denim, one of the most common apparel textiles in America, can be both stylish and socially conscious.

Momotaro News

Hand Weaving Clusters

The “Indian Business Standard” reports that machine weaving has forced many hand weavers to put away their looms and join millions of others in low wage factory jobs. As a result the Indian government has implemented a plan that they hope will stop the demise of the traditional Indian weavers and their age-old craft and industry.
Government money is helping to create a weaving cluster near Madurai, a city in the state of Tamil Nadu in the south of India. A weaving cluster is an organized group of upwards of 75,000 weavers. They believe that this funding will employ around 50,000 currently unemployed weavers. The goal of this project is to create a cluster that will save the hand weaving industry in India by increasing productivity and boosting marketing.

Hand Weavers Cluster
by Reporter Chennai

Handloom vs Machine Loom

by A. Prabaharan

In this blog, A. Prabaharan examines the difficulties of handloom weavers in their effort to compete with machine made cloth. Not only is the world changing its taste and asking for manufactured cloth but now yarn supplies are also no interested in supplying to handloom weavers.

India cannot shine in the vast tracks of its villages if its traditional economic enterprises are ignored. Handloom is one of the core business and livelihood activities around the country.

For the past few years, the handloom weavers are suffering due to multiple problems. Mainly due to the arrival of powerloom and because of the secondary treatment of the government. For the constant growth of the the village economy it is important to promote handloom.

When crores of rupees are being spent on imparting vocational skills, how does it feel to know that lakhs of persons with well-established craft
skills are being forced to give up their precious skills and take up unskilled daily wage labour?

This is precisely what is happening in the case of lakhs of handloom weavers who had inherited and learnt intricate skills of weaving on handlooms, yet have been forced in recent times to

There is much more information in the article which is posted below.

Full Article: Handloom vs. Machine

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Tradition of Indian Khadi

Some of the world's finest thread Khadi or handspun handloom cotton. Photo by Smita Paul

Say 'Yes' to Khadi, the Comfortable Attire of Kerala
by Slices of Kerala Life

The hand spun khadi has had a big role in the Indian history. Right from the freedom struggle days, our nationalist leaders have considered khadi as not just a fabric but a symbol of self sustenance and independence. However with the advent of designer apparels and synthetic, wrinkle free garments, people swapped khadi with these options considering the ease and style factor tagged to it.

This caused the virtual annihilation of the hand loom sector leaving the workers in dire streets. Now in an attempt to revamp the handloom sector, Kerala Government has come up with a novel concept of promoting khadi in schools and offices as a weekend wear.
Khadi is the best suited fabric in the humid weather conditions of Kerala as it keeps your skin well aerated and cool.

Made from unbleached cotton, it is sturdy and long lasting and requires no special care. It is easy on your pockets, and is suited for all skin types and does not cause allergies. Hand spun by gifted artisans this art is handed down the generations. Khadi is available in various exciting colours and trendy patterns in tune with the changing times. In addition to dress materials, bedsheets, stylish bags, purses , upholstery materials and furnishings are also available in the market.
A young female 'spinner' spins khadi yarn in West Bengal. Photo by Smita Paul

Unfortunately, these days, the use of handloom cloth is confined to the festival season of Onam and Vishu where men and women flock the handloom shops to buy the traditional mundu and saree with zari borders. Let us make wearing khadi a habit and a part of our style statement. Experience the natural goodness of khadi and be a proud malayali in its fullest sense by reviving this traditional art of cloth making by adopting this simple yet stylish way of dressing at least on the weekends.

Varanasi Saree Production A Dying Art

In this article, an established handloom weaver speaks about the decline of the traditional art, due to the increase of mechanized saree production. A traditional handloom saree takes 7 to 10 days to weave, and an additional 7 to 10 days for embroidery. On a machine, the entire process takes less than 10 hours. However, the price includes the lost of work for traditional handloom weavers, traditional hand embroiderers. Some traditional Indian arts are not even made in India - they have moved to factories in China.

Dying Handloom Industry in Azamgarh
India Mirror
by Salman Sultan

Varanasi: Mr. Imam Ali s/o Mr. Muzammil Husain originally belongs to Mohalla Pura Diwan of Mubarakpur (District Azamgarh). He migrated to Varanasi in November 2000 after prolonged sectarian violence in Mubarakpur. He is involved in manufacturing Banarasi Silk Sarees and has continued this business in Varanasi.

According to him “traditional embroidered Saree on an average takes 7-10 days. The same Saree could be stitched on Computer Embroidery Machine in 4 hours but it compromises quality. Actually the Saree is knitted on Powerloom in 5 hours but on Handloom the plain cloth Saree with design takes 7-10 days. Earlier Handloom industry was only in Mubarakpur but now Silk cloth is available from Surat (Gujrat) and with Computerized Embroidery Machine Saree can be made anywhere in India.

Another reason for decline of Handloom industry is the import of China Silk. Earlier Bangalore Silk was made available which is quite costly as compared to China Silk. Handloom industry is only in Mubarakpur and the so called Banarasi Sarees are actually hand made in Mubarakpur or the suburbs of Varanasi. Mau, which was earlier in Azamgarh district, had Powerloom from the beginning. Therefore, cloth industry in Mau in not affected, rather it has flourished at the cost of Handloom industry of Mubarakpur”.

Mr. Hasan Ali s/o Mr. Abdul Mannan, Malti Bagh, Madanpura, Varanasi, lamented, “Around 50,000 workers involved in Handloom industry have migrated for petty jobs elsewhere. Earlier Zari work used to be done through Silver-Copper wire but now it has been replaced with Plastic Zari. Lohta, Kotwa and Mangalpur (all suburbs of Varanasi) are places where weavers used to weave intricate patterns to produce traditional Banarasi Saree but all Handlooms there are lying idle. Those still working on Handloom are just hand to mouth as labour charges have been reduced”.

Both these businessmen associated with Handloom industry blamed the government for neglecting this important industry, which not only provided employment to thousands but was also part of our culture. They suggested government help in the form of subsidy and training in Computer handling to their youths.

Sikkim Handloom Industry Making Efforts to Popularize Tribal Art:

Handloom is a part of the make-up of culture in most parts of Asia - including the northeastern Indian state of Sikkam. Much like Indigo Handloom weavers the Sikkim weave on family looms in their own homes. The article below speaks of an effort to keep the Sikkim handloom industry alive and thriving. They are offering handloom programs to young members of the community to keep the tradition of handloom in their culture.

Sikkim Handloom Industry Making Efforts to Popularize Tribal Art:
By Tashi Pradhan (ANI)

GANGTOK - To promote the weave of an indigenous tribe of Sikkim, handicrafts and handloom department of the state is trying to enhance its popularity by imparting training to unemployed youth.

The Directorate of Handloom and Handicraft (DHH) of Sikkim impart training to unemployed Sikkimese Lepcha boys and girls between the age group of 14 to 24 years.

The ‘Lepchas’ are the aboriginal inhabitants of Sikkim.

“Every Lepcha family has their own loom in their house and these loom frames are made of bamboo as they don’t have modern mechanism. With the help of this loom they make the cloth in their respective houses,” said Shanti Tamang, Instructor, Directorate of Handmade and Handloom Industry, Sikkim.

Handloom weaving in Sikkim is synonymous with the Lepcha weave. It is woven primarily in the ‘loin’ loom, which gives the fabric a superior quality. The weave frame is made from the bamboo and other wood.

The department has applied for the Geographical Indications (GI) registration of the art.
” This weave art originally belongs to the Lepcha community, we want to avoid the exploitation of this art in the handloom market.

Therefore we have applied for it’s GI registration and for that we are busy in the research work and hope to make it happen within 1-2 years,” said Karma Bhutia, Deputy Director, Directorate of Handmade and Handloom Industry, Sikkim.

The cloth woven is ideally suited for curtains, bags, tablemats, belts, shawls, bed-covers and cushion-covers.

Handicraft products from Sikkim are gaining recognition and accolades from all parts of the world. And this fame and popularity seems to have encouraged the craftsmen of Sikkim even more.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saris Becoming Scarce

Hand weavers are both men and women, this is
an Indigo Handloom weaver from West Bengal.

In the following article the discussion is reasons for the decline in demand of Saris in India. It is theorized that it could be the changing styles of the modern Indian woman, or the import of machine woven saris from China; but the result is that it is putting a strain on the already small business that is hand weaving in India.
by Jessica Pudussery

I am standing in Dilli Haat, New Delhi's popular open-air handicrafts market, feeling a little guilty. My usual uniform for a hot summer evening — jeans, sandals and a comfortable cotton tunic — is putting people out of business.

"People in Delhi have abandoned their own traditional clothing," says Bilal Ahmed, 24, a weaver who works for his family business in Jammu and Kashmir. Ahmed and his family specialize in Kadhai work, a type of embroidery. "We have started making more suits and shirts than saris," he says. "People don't buy saris anymore. Now they buy jeans."

Ahmed has been working in the sari business for the past 13 years, during which the popularity of the famous garb has declined drastically in India's cities. Handloom-weaving is a small-scale business, so there are no comprehensive statistics to track it, but weavers say they've noticed a marked decline in the past decade.

V.P. Sharma, 48, has been employed as a weaver in the handloom sari industry in Bihar since 1988. He blames the slowdown on women's changing tastes. It is particularly bad for handloom saris — the simple cotton saris that many Indian women used to wear every day. Their plain designs and muted colors have no appeal for women like Rashmi Raniwal, a 22-year-old sales assistant.

"Sari?" she says, giggling. "I never wear it casually, only for formal occasions."

Sales do pick up in the winter, Delhi's high season for lavish parties and weddings, but fashionable young women are more interested in designer saris in sheer fabrics made on power looms, not the traditional handwoven silks like the ones in their mothers' cabinets.
"I'm a sari freak," says Deepa Nangia, 36, a nutritionist. "I love wearing saris for parties and functions, but that's only designer saris, actually. Who wears traditional saris anymore?"

She adds that she is the only one in her circle of friends who has any interest in wearing saris at all. "Youngsters feel like it's more 'oldy' stuff," she says. "I think it's just gradually dying out with time."

The most prized Indian sari styles — Banarasi and Kanjeevaram silks — are also facing new competition. Depending on the intricacy of design, it takes 15 to 30 days to weave one of these saris, which sell for $50 to $60.

A Banarasi silk weaver, Abdul Basit Ansari, 37, has been working for the past 20 years weaving these garments, which come from the holy city of Varanasi.

"The industry is facing lots of difficulties," he says. "This is primarily because the sale of fake Banarasi saris made in power looms has been picking up and also because of the sale of cheap imports from China. The government is not stopping this, and our trade is suffering."

Even in South India, where saris are much more popular than in the north, weavers are having trouble finding a market. Kanjeevaram saris, made in the town of Kanjeevaram, near Chennai, are made by cooperative weaver societies.

In 2004, there were 22 weaver societies in Kanjeevaram, but only 13 are left today, according to Business Today. Of these 13, only five say they are doing well. Last year, the 13 weavers sold about $12 million worth of saris, down from $40 million in 2004.

The best-known sari shops, like Nalli, which has gleaming showrooms in several big Indian cities, have contracts with some Kanjeevaram weaver co-ops, which is helping them hang on. But it isn't enough to stop people from fleeing the profession.

In and around Kanchipuram, famous for the Kanjeevaram silk saris that hail from this region, the manpower in the weaving industry has gone down drastically, from 60,000 10 years ago to about 20,000 today.

While those dwindling numbers may spell the death of India's traditional weaving skills, women in Delhi embrace the change as a sign of progress.

"There is a general perception that you would consider a woman in Western formal wear more empowered than her more traditional counterparts," says Kriti Budhiraja, 20, a political science student at Delhi University.

And to be fair, the sari industry is not exactly putting up a fight. It's exiting the stage slowly and almost imperceptibly, with the exception perhaps of Indian soap operas, in which every woman is dressed in an impeccably ironed and draped sari while she cooks and schemes against her mother-in-law.

Of course, everyone knows that's not real life.

Child Labor in Sari Production

A story was published today in The Telegraph (Kolkata, India) about the use of child labor in the hand weaving industry of Bengal. These children are sold into the industry and can only be extracted from the situation by paying off the loan parents receive upon the child's employment.

Indigo Handloom in no way supports child labor which is why we visit our weavers often to make sure there are no children employed by our weavers.

It is also important to be aware of the injustices occurring in any industry.

The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)
Sujoy Singh Roy wrote:
Nakashipara, July 26: Many of Bengal’s famous handloom saris, badges of high culture that sell for a neat sum in cities, are woven over the tears of children pushed into slavery by their parents for money.

Handloom owners in Na- dia’s Nakashipara pay poverty-stricken parents between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000 for a child, who works for about a fourth of the wages of an adult.

The money is handed as a loan but most villagers are unable to repay it and the children, some as young as six, are stuck with the loom owners for years on end.

Two children together we-ave one taant sari in a week and earn Rs 150 each. The sa-me sari often sells for as much as Rs 1,200.

According to a rough district labour wing estimate, 2,000 children are employed in the 400-odd units in the area. Thirteen-year-old Meno Khatoon was pulled out of sch-ool and sent to “train” at a lo-om five years ago. Three years ago, her sister Parveena join-ed her.
Rahima Bibi, 45, admits taking Rs 20,000 for her elder daughter and Rs 15,000 for the younger one.

“What could I do? My husband, a labourer, has been suffering from a nerve disorder for the past five years. I needed money for his treatment and the mahajan (the loom owner) came to my aid. I am totally dependent on my daughters' income,” said the mother. Meno and Parveena toge-ther make four saris in a mon-th and earn Rs 1,200.

The younger girl, working since the age of six, has never gone to a school. Even if the mother wants to take her children to school now, she can’t. “I can’t ever repay the loan. So, my daughters will have to continue working,” said Rahima.

Meno said her eyes once welled up every time she saw a girl in school uniform. “I don’t cry now,” she said, furiously weaving away.

Since Rahima could provide two working hands, the mahajan installed a loom in their house. But in the absence of electricity at home, the sis- ters have to work without a break from 9am to ensure they finish their day’s task before sunset. That means there is no lunch break.

Others like Azhar Sheikh, 13, go to work in larger units, where scores of children sweat it out together. Every morning, he goes to work with his two sisters. Their father died of cancer last year. Neither Azhar nor his sisters Panobati, 14, and Mani- sha, 16, have ever been to school.

“I have taken Rs 80,000 from the loom owner over the past three years for my three children. All the money went into my husband’s treatment. Now, if my children don’t work, what will we eat?” said Sufal Bewa.

The loom owners employ the children because they cost less and there is no chance of them quitting because of their parents' debt. They see nothing wrong in the “system”.

“If the parents want to take their children back, they will have to repay their loans. If they want to go to school they can leave the job. But before that we must have our money back,” said Chamu Mirja, a handloom owner at Kachkuli village, where Meno lives.

Adult handloom workers get Rs 80 a day and often quit if the working conditions don’t suit them.

The children work for eight hours a day, 365 days a year, but get an hour’s lunch break. The young hands are spared if they take ill. Sources said units that employed children spent less than Rs 500 to make an “expensive” sari.

District magistrate O.S. Meena said a probe had been ordered into the use of child labour at Nakashipara, 130km from Calcutta. “Making children work like this is illegal and we will take strong action against those responsible.”

Nakashipara, a handloom hub in Nadia like Shantipur and Phulia, has an annual bu-siness of over Rs 1.5 crore.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Handloom Nation was created by Indigo Handloom founder Smita Paul as a forum for all information regarding the handloom industry.