Handlooms Of India : Textiles That Weave Our Identity


The handloom industry is the second-largest in India after agriculture, with nearly 4 million people working in this field. There are serval ways to uplift the industry but it needs government support and especially the will power of the weavers to step out of their comfort zone and change for the better. 
The pandemic has had an extremely negative impact on the handloom sector, affecting the livelihood of weavers everywhere. Fashion designers from across the country have been making attempts to revive Indian fabrics like chanderi, kalamkari, and banarasi. A Bangalore based organization (TRS) has started a campaign for the same. We can all do our part by promoting local products and local brands. The #Vocalforlocal moment is all about promoting local products and boycotting those that are not made in India. The world is moving towards a recession and now is the time to take action. 

Kanchivaram is traditionally woven silk from a village called Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, India. The origin of the Kanchipuram saree dates back to centuries ago when these sarees used to be woven in temples. Kanchipuram sarees are made from pure mulberry silk with borders and pallu in contrast colors and lined with heavy gold weaving. The inspiration behind these designs is South Indian temples and natural elements like birds, leaves, and flowers.

Kerala is known for its Mundus and the Kerala saree, which are typically undyed cotton fabrics with color or kasavu borders and a kasavu stripe on the pallu. The term Kasavu actually refers to the zari used in the border of the Kerala saree. In Kerala, traditional attire like saris, mundus, and settu mundus is generally called kaithari, meaning handloom. Kerala has three clusters that have been given a Geographical Indication tag by the Indian government.
Balaramapuram textiles (Thiruvananthapuram district)
Chendamangalam textiles (Ernakulam district)
Kuthampully textiles (Thrissur district)
Telangana is renowned for its world-famous Ikat designs. It is considered as one of the ancient Ikat weaving centers of India. The fabric used is cotton, silk, and sico, which is actually a mix of silk and cotton. Ikat represents a weaving form where the warp and weft are both tie-dyed before they are weaved to create any designs on the finished fabric.
Pochampally Ikat is well-known for its traditional geometric patterns with the Ikat style of dyeing. The intricate geometric designs are mastered by the hands of skilled weavers.
Chanderi is a traditional ethnic fabric characterized by its lightweight, sheer texture and fine luxurious feel. Chanderi fabric is produced by weaving silk and golden zari in a traditional cotton yarn. This fabric can be classified into three types – Chanderi silk cotton, pure silk, and Chanderi cotton.  Motifs created using Chanderi weaving are inspired by nature and include Swans, gold coins, fruits, and heavenly bodies. The color palette of Chanderi sarees is predominately ruled by soft pastel hues.
Banarasi Silk is a fine variant of Silk originating from the city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Mughals brought this fine craftsmanship in India and tried to glorify the art of weaving and designing with Persian motifs. It has actually been well known for the use of gold and silver brocade or the ‘Zari‘. The unique aspect of these sarees is the Mughal inspired designs which have been decorated with intricate floral as well as foliate designs.
The Paithani sari originates from the royal dynasties of the medieval town of Paithan near Aurangabad. It is believed to be made from the finest silk yarns of China and locally spun zari. Every piece is characterized by the luxurious use of gold as well as floral and bird-inspired motifs. The traditional motifs include parrots, peacocks, and lotuses.

Jamdani is a handloom woven fabric made of cotton, traditionally originated from Bengal, and historically referred to as muslin. The words ‘Jam’ and ‘Dani’ mean flower and vase. This weave done by loom on brocade is a time-consuming process and is a blend of figures and floral motifs. In Jamdani, motifs are inlaid into the fabric by adding a denser thread to fine warp by hand. It is considered as one of the finest varieties of muslin and the most artistic textile. 
Uppada, a small town located in Andhra Pradesh, is well known for its traditional Uppada Handlooms and its unique designs. They are handwoven using cotton or silk warp and weft. The count used in weaving results in the softness and hardness of the fabric. Uppada uses the technique of the traditional Jamdani weaving to create rich patterns using gold and silver zari.

Patolas are manufactured by the resist-dyeing process using the warp and weft technique on handwoven silk and take about 4- 7 months to weave. Patolas generally have abstract and geometric patterns of elephants, human figures, kalash, flowers, and parrots as well as designs inspired by the architecture of Gujarat. Natural dyes like indigo, turmeric, madder roots, manjistha, pomegranate skin, henna, and marigold are used in the making process.
Even though the handloom textile industry in India is glorified in today’s world, there are some major problems faced by the weavers in India. Starting from the increase in the price of the raw materials to the lack of modernization and to financial exploitation, they have faced it all. 
Multiplying prices of the raw materials like yarns and dyes have made it a nightmare for the weavers to procure them at affordable prices. This affects their work and product outcomes. The infrastructure of the workplace and the looms have affected the quality of work and have also had it time-consuming, making the product more expensive. Due to the vulnerable financial condition of the weavers and frequent exploitation, they are unable to invest in research and development, a serious impediment to tune in new designs.


What is an art movement? A way of art that is followed which is based on some ideals and is followed by several artists in a period is called an art movement. One of the most famous art movements of the 20th century is the avant-garde. Many artists and designers still link themselves to this art movement.
Artists, designers, communities, and people who have a different and innovative viewpoint that is contradictory to the mainstream orthodox ideas are alluded to as avant-garde or advanced guards. This art movement became popular during the time of modernism and postmodernism and one of the most famous or say controversial artists of this movement was Walter Sickert who made a very contended yet a masterpiece which is known as “Jack the rippers’ bedroom”. It is a beautiful piece of art that is made from the perspective of an open doorway where the furniture and details are made with the help of light and shadow. It is decorated on the wall of the “Manchester art gallery”.  
Sickert was reckoned as one of the most important influencers during the avant-garde movement. Born in Germany,1960 he was one of the establishers of the Camden Town group which is a set of post-impressionism art workers.
Jack the ripper was a serial killer who was known for the killing of 5 prostitutes during 1888 in east London. He made his painting “Jack The Ripper’s Bedroom” when he moved to Camden Town. Emily Dimmocks’ body was found on her bed in September 1907. It was badly mutilated with her organs distorted and heart was taken out. Her murder was known as the infamous Camden Town Murder and Sickert created several paintings and drawings depicting the murders. His work caused controversy in the media, several publishers and authors accused Sickert to be “Jack the Ripper”. Sickert was considered as one of the suspects of the murders but there were some details in the painting that only the murderer would know.  There are two books: Jack the Ripper: Case Closed and Ripper the secret life of Walter Sickert by writer Patricia Cornwell. Despite these controversies, this was the painting that established Sickert as one of the most influencing artists of the avant-garde movement.
There were not just artists who were inspired by the unorthodox ideas of the avant-garde movement but there were designers as well who made collections inspired by such ideas and artworks as one of the designers who is also known as the “enfant terrible “of the fashion industry, Alexander Mcqueen.
Undeniably one of the most enchanting fashion designers not only of England but all around the world is Alexander McQueen. His father was a taxi driver. He left his schooling at the age of sixteen. In London’s Savile Row he worked as a trainee where he learned his irreproachable pattern making and sewing skills that defined his career as a fashion designer. He worked for Koji Tatsuno and Romeo Gigli for a short period, after his stint on Savile Row. Then he moved back to London, the place his heart was. He applied for the job of pattern making tutor in Central St Martins. A teacher in the MA course, Louise Wilson noticed him there and that’s when Mcqueen became a student at the school instead.
In 1992 Alexander Mcqueen graduated from St. Martin’s. He was an avant-garde designer in all sense “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims”, this was the name of his collection that he showcased on his graduation runway show, it was inspired by Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel victims of 1888. McQueen’s collections were always highly personalized. One of Jack the ripper’s victim lived in one of his relative’s inn. To make his collection more appealing he had sewn locks of hair.  Pink thorn patterned jacket had hair cocooned in white silk which gave a very real touch to his collection. These are some of the ways Mcqueen used to astonish the viewers. His ways of presenting and his inspirations were so unique that it always left people flabbergasted.   
He was highly inspired by the Victorian era and had his own innovative way to showcase it. For his early collections, Mcqueen used to cut his own hair and attach it to items of clothing to give it a personal touch. He got the inspiration to do so from the Victorian era where the prostitutes used to sell their hair.
The graduation collection of Alexander Mcqueen was hit. Everyone in the audience just loved it. There was another lady in the audience who was present there that day. She was the fashion assistant of Michael Roberts, she was Isabella Blow. Mesmerized by the appeal and the impeccable craftsmanship of the clothing in the collection, she couldn’t resist herself from buying it, and she bought the entire collection for 5,000 pounds. This was the beginning of an extraordinary partnership. Isabella gave Alexander Mcqueen the platform to make his name in a very short period. His designs were outrageous in a literal sense. His ideas and imaginations were not at all something from the mainstream but yet he managed to build a small but loyal clientele. Blow used to help him get the media attention and publicity, his stunning designs made him establish his name as ‘The hooligan of English fashion”. He did live up to this title and as a brand, Alexander Mcqueen still manages to surprise the audience with its designs and always lives up to the expectation of the masses. People like him are the inspiration for others who have their own ideas and beliefs about the surroundings and one should never feel low for being different in terms of their creations. A true artist is the one who can deliver his message through his creations without being afraid of the norms. Avant-garde art movement has definitely gifted the world with such unique gems that have made an unforgettable mark in the history of fashion.