Sri Lankan handloom textile industry is a highly labour-intensive, export-oriented and rural based. The industry produces mainly cotton and silk products, utilizing cotton and silk yarn. Generally, with low capital costs and running expenses, handloom is a household or cottage industry, where skilled hands create value added products, according the Export Development Board. A programme on ‘Design Development for Sri Lanka’s Handlooms’ is held at the Export Development Board auditorium today, June 30 at 9.30am which will be inaugurated by International Design Expert Ms Jennifer Shellard of the United Kingdom. Awareness of modern design trends, combined with traditional craftsmanship and the influx of new processing techniques, Sri Lankan handlooms have been given a new life. The industry has gained a dominant identity and a foothold in the competitive international market. Handloom products are completely sustainable and use eco-friendly raw material and internationally accepted quality standards are maintained. Thus, there is a great opportunity for the Sri Lankan handloom industry to flourish. Sri Lanka's handloom textile industry is centuries old, the 6th century BC according to Mahavansa, when Prince Vijaya from India landed at Manthota (Mannar) in Sri Lanka. History records that when he found Kuveni, whom he eventually married, she was spinning yarn. And that tradition continues to the present era as weaving handloom textiles. The industry has helped showcase the undying creativity of generations of Sri Lankans taking them to the international arena. A range of designs and colours, individual and innovative designs, craftsmanship, colour combination and patterns have been handed down from generation to generation. Another feature is that the industry has the flexibility to supply in small quantities as well as larger quantities and styles to individual tastes and requirements of different buyers from various cultures. There is an immense potential for use of alternative raw materials, abundantly available in Sri Lanka. The handloom industry employs around l5,000 persons with around 962 manufacturers engaged in the industry. The mix of manufacturers includes leading handloom weaving manufacturers as well as small scale producers. The leading producers have been able to grasp the international market and also successfully catering to the local tourist market. Exports include a wide range products such as soft toys made out of handloom fabrics. bed linen, table linen, kitchen Linen bath Linen, upholstery and dress fabric, curtaining, readymade garments, hand woven rugs, tapestries etc. and stationery items such as books, notebooks, albums and writing pads made with handcrafted exteriors. These items are designed for niche markets where hand made products of high value are preferred. Sri Lankan handloom producers are capable of supplying numerous products to markets such as Italy, Germany, France, UK, Norway, Netherlands, Japan, Korea and Maldives. Sri Lanka has exported handloom textile products to the value of US $ 1,539,623 in 2011.
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