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 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
Naushad Ali worked with the weavers of Musiri in Tamil Nadu to create a collection in organic cotton and zari.
Pallavi Dhyani of Three Clothing worked with the weavers from project Baank-e-Loom in Saidanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
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.
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.
Udita Chaturvedi and Lakme Fashion Week