(24 Mar 2017) LEADIN:
India's handloom industry is being promoted by the country's fashion world.
At the Amazon India Fashion Week autumn/winter 2017, there were also calls for the Indian government to do more to support handloom weavers.
Indian designers are honouring the centuries-old tradition of handmade textiles at the Amazon India Fashion Week autumn/winter 2017.
Working with fabrics ranging from Eastern Indian silks to cotton fabrics spun into thread on hand-powered spinning wheels, famous Indian designers like Rohit Bal, Shruti Sancheti, and Rina Dhaka, display their handloom collections.
The Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) is encouraging designers to revive the country's handloom industry by incorporating handmade fabrics into high-end fashion and couture.
India currently produces the majority of world's handwoven textiles and the Indian handloom industry is the second largest employer in rural India after agriculture, according to Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF).
Indian fashion designer Gautam Gupta says while there is an increasing awareness and demand for handmade fabrics, designers have an important role to play in popularising the industry.
"There is actually a really beautiful awareness right now within the design industry, and within the customer base as well," she says.
"And, especially the customer base that is consuming couture right now in and from this country.
"So, I think it's a very interesting time for designers to innovate more and more in this sphere, and that's when the real change will happen. That's when we would actually see a global revival of handloom from India."
According to IBEF, in 2015-16, India exported around $360 million USD of handloom products, that's almost a three percent increase on the previous year.
Top buyers of Indian handloom products were the US, the UK, and the UAE.
Uzramma, the founder of Malkha India, an initiative for a decentralised cotton textile chain, collectively owned farmers, ginners, spinners, dyers and weavers, says handlooms are the greener alternative to industrial power looms.
"We use kinetic energy to produce this vast amount of fabric, especially the cotton fabric," she says.
"And this cannot be done anywhere else in the world. So, this is a world-beating technique that we have. As I said in the panel discussion, 95 percent of the world's handlooms are in India. So why don't we see this as a big plus point? And why doesn't the government promote handloom weaving?"
This year's fashion week is featuring an exhibit of handwoven fabrics made when designers met directly with weavers and primary producers, without having to go through the usual middle man.
At this Handloom School stall, student weavers are excited to see their works come to life.
"We had never seen our final product," says Hussein, a third-generation weaver from a small town in North India.
"We didn't know where our handloom-made fabrics went or what came of them. But, here we saw what is made from our handloom fabrics and it was presented right in front of our eyes. So I am shocked (in a good way). It made all of us very happy."
Hussein, who walked the ramp with lead Indian designers at the Handloom Show on the opening day of Amazon India Fashion Week, says he hopes for a brighter future where he can make more than the minimum wage for what is now being considered an increasingly endangered art in India.
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