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Artisans of Digital Age DEf at lakme fashion week

Saree weaving isn’t just a source of livelihood for weavers, it’s their passion — one that has been with them for centuries.

To support this passion in the digital era that we’re living in, weavers in various parts of India have joined hands with Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) to get on the digital bandwagon to showcase their design and the artistry of their craft globally.

DigiKargha, an initiative of DEF, aims to support nine handloom and handicraft clusters of India in an effort to lead them towards maturity and sustainability through digital empowerment and socio-economic sustainability.
Encouraging digital adoption in the handloom clusters of India, DEF collaborated with three designers last month to showcase a new range of exquisite handloom products under the brand name of DigiKargha at Lakme Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2018, for the second consecutive time, to promote #ArtisansOfDigitalAge. Here, rather than celebrities walking the ramp, it were the weavers themselves who walked with the designers as showstoppers.

After its first exhibit at Lakme Fashion Week Spring/Summer earlier this year, DEF collaborated with three design labels who shared their concepts with the weavers who, in turn, translated them on to the warp and weft. Leveraging the digital bandwagon, designers from fashion labels Indigene, Naushad Ali and Three Clothing took workshops on trending colours, popular combinations and contemporary designs via Skype and Google Hangouts for the handloom weavers of Barpali and Nuatpatna in Odisha, Musiri in Tamil Nadu, and Saidanpur in Uttar Pradesh. These live digital workshops helped build the capacities of the weavers to produce high quality fabric yardage, which was then used by the design labels in their collection of contemporary wear.

DigiKargha used the platform of Lakme Fashion Week to showcase this digitally enabled collection, with weavers walking the ramp to showcase their art and craft, thus earning them the recognition they deserve rather than the anonymity they live in.

Designers Ruchi Tripathi and Jaya Bhatt of Indigene worked with the weavers of Nuapatna and Barpali in Nuapatna to create a collection with single ikat on silk and double ikat on cotton, respectively
More from the design label at www.indigenecraft.com

Our weavers Sabyasachi and Bidyabati walked for the designers on the ramp.

Naushad Ali worked with the weavers of Musiri in Tamil Nadu to create a collection in organic cotton and zari.
More from the design label at www.shopnaushadali.in

Our weaver Dheena walked for the designer on the ramp.

Pallavi Dhyani of Three Clothing worked with the weavers from project Baank-e-Loom in Saidanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
More from the design label at www.wearthree.com

Our community member Utkarsh walked for the designer on the ramp.

And it was an experience of a lifetime for all the weavers who walked the ramp. Utkarsh was extremely nervous before going on stage. He didn't see enough reason to be in front of the camera, rather he used that comment as an excuse. Even after the only rehearsal walk that he did, he was still of the opinion that somebody else could have walked instead of him. However, right after the walk, when he was asked how he felt, he said, ""Thodi der aur ruk sakte the stage pe". Utkarsh has walked with immense confidence and a Rajputana style.

Dheena has always been on the other side of the fashion industry, weaving and now showcasing. At the Lakme Fashion Week, he not only got a chance to understand the market markups but he also gained a first-hand experience of interacting with buyers and understanding the market trends and demands.

Sabyasachi felt no less than a hero for five days at the Lakme Fashion Week. It was a first for him to be around so many people who were probably walking down in clothes worth "thousands and lakhs". It was also a first for him to see men who were fashionably—or even eccentrically—dressed and not afraid to flaunt their sexuality through their clothes and mannerisms. While he spent the first day trying to hide a smile or exchange whispers with his fellow weaver, he seemed almost comfortably part of the crowd by Day 2. And it's not easy to feel so comfortable so soon in a crowd which is occupied by some of the richest, most fashionable and well known people.

Bidyabati was enjoying every moment of the Lakme Fashion Week. She was smiling with pride when she first saw fabrics woven by her and her community members in the form of pants, jackets and tops. Even though her community has been weaving these fabrics for generations, they had never made any thing other than sarees and stoles. She was smiling with a lot of love for herself when she had her go-glam moment at the salon counter. She was smiling with confidence when she walked down the ramp in front of an audience of no less than 500. When her peers were walking down the runway, she was glued to her smartphone, watching the live telecast of the show on Hotstar.

It was a complete experience for the weavers. They had learnt through video chats and had woven fabrics with passion before coming. Once they were here, they saw their fabrics transformed into ready to wear collection, they interacted with potential buyers, they shared the same space as the "urban elite", they experienced the craze that goes with backstage and rehearsals, they addressed the media and their questions, they walked the ramp as showstoppers, and they heard the crowd cheer them.

Besides walking the ramp, weavers associated with DigiKargha were also able to present their self-designed and woven products at a stall at Lakme Fashion Week. Here, they showcased handloom and handicraft products from Barpali and Nuapatna in Odisha, Saidanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Kollegal in Karnataka, Pochampally in Telangana, Musiri and Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, Warli in Maharashtra, and Puducherry.

“DEF has been working in the space digital interventions in the handloom sector for almost a decade now. In these 10 years, we’ve seen barely ‘educated’ youth designing patterns for some of the finest sarees on CAD/CAM, we’ve seen weavers earning their rightful profits though sales via eCommerce portals, and we’ve seen women promoting their products via social media. In the times that we’re living in, it’s extremely integral that our artisans, too, are digitally enabled to leverage the benefits of computers and the Internet,” says DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar.

Created By
Digital Empowerment Foundation
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Credits:

Udita Chaturvedi and Lakme Fashion Week

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