Legacy of the loom

Amrita Prasad
Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Hemlatha Jain, designer, revivalist and educator, who has been chiefly instrumental in reviving an ancient Indian weave Patteda anchu and helping weavers as well, gives us a peek into the success story

Besides our culture, the diversity of our textiles and weaves also contribute to the uniqueness of colourful India. But several of these weaves are dying. However, Patteda anchu, a North Karnataka weave that dates back to 10th century, has experienced a rebound. The saree named after the borders and check patterns, is also called Dundina, Devaru or Laxmi saree.  

Determined to revive Patteda anchu, designer, revivalist and educator Hemlatha Jain conceptualised Punarjeevana, a self-help group where she works with local weavers and craftsmen. 

The journey 
Jain will be a part of today’s panel discussion on handlooms and also showcase her sarees at ‘The Fashion Narrative’, a three-day event, which has kicked off in the city today.  Celebrating the sentiment of Independence Day, Rasika Wakalkar, owner, Rudraksh-Renee Enterprises, is organising the event. 

Jain says, “I was working for Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation  as a designer and used to travel extensively to remote areas and that’s when I realised that there isn’t much awareness and information about the weave. Everyone knew the name of the saree but no one had a sample. I started looking for weavers who made Patteda anchu but didn’t find one. This is how my curiosity to know the history of the weave, its technique and everything about it grew stronger.” 

She says that she wanted the weavers to be a part of the system and understand their problems. “I started with one weaver but later, more came on board. I formed self-help group Punarjeevana and made them a part of it. Now, I have 16 weavers and 8-9 helpers.” But the journey from 1 to 25 weavers wasn’t easy. “I had to build that trust in them that I will create a market for their sarees and that’s how I created  confidence in them,” says she.  

Besides exhibitions, Jain also retails her product through Facebook and Instagram page and even has clients in London and Dubai. But is it easy to create a market for Patteda anchu sarees? Says Jain, “There is an array of things available online that too at an affordable price. People do not know the difference between handloom and powerloom and immediately start price comparison. It is very difficult to make them understand the difference in quality.” 

Jain also did a lot of research on why a saree is not preferred today and worked on it to make it more wearable and made modifications to the suit the demands of the urban contemporary women. “I took consumer preferences seriously and made reversible saree, which can be worn from both sides. It doesn’t need a fall and beading, the minute you buy it you can wear it. It also doesn’t need ironing and starching frequently.

Once I started manufacturing and sold the first 100 sarees, I didn’t have to look for people.  They came asking me when would I manufacture the next batch of sarees,” she says.  

 A new lease of life 
Through her continuous efforts, there has been an improvement in the lives of weavers. “Earlier, there was no demand for Patteda anchu.

Besides, the powerloom had taken over. The Lingayat community also started wearing synthetic sarees. They migrated to urban set-ups for jobs. With a decline in demand the weavers stopped making them.

Today, with whatever they are manufacturing, they manage to earn a decent amount and more and more people want to be a part of it,” says Jain.

Jain, who is getting the sarees in all nine colours and unique pallus so that you can shift and wear them differently, says red and yellow combination is the basic traditional Patteda anchu. “I want to show people how culturally rich we are and why handlooms should be promoted so that artisans and crafts sustain and live longer,” she says. 

‘Fashion Narrative’ will have a panel discussion, saree-draping workshop and a pop-up sale which will take place at Hotel Conrad and BMW Motorrad — Bavaria Motors Suyog Platinum Towers, Naylor Road, next to Hotel Conrad, August 10-12, 10.30 am-7 pm. For bookings, log onto www.townscript.com

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