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Government working toward improving status of Varanasi weavers

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2014-12-06 18:00:00 – New Delhi

The quintessential Banarasi saree is set for a makeover to fall in line with the changing fashion choices of today’s youth consumer. The opulent Banarasi brocade, which boasts of intricate gold and silver work on fine silk with embroidery, has caught the attention of the government and the fashion industry.

Fashion industry and govt are set to redefine the brocade, it will be seen in new designs, fabric construction and application in not just traditional wear but also Western clothing like trousers and jackets.

The textiles ministry has initiated a programme from comprehensive making to marketing of authentic Banarasi fabric in order to enhance its popularity and consumption. SK Panda, secretary at the textiles ministry said that they are trying to do innovative ways to make Banarasi more desirable to the urban customer.

Veteran designer Ritu Kumar and her team are creating new designs, colours and fabric construction to make the otherwise heavy fabric easy to

drape. Kumar, who has been roped in by the government for skill development in the handloom sector said that there is a need to make classical sarees not so stiff and over lurexed. The problem is that today’s youth finds it unattractive and not so aspirational.

Under her tutelage, a team of designers is currently working with 22 looms in Varanasi to alter the basic aesthetic and overall design of the product.

Simultaneously, design houses and retailers have also started experimenting with ways to make the product more saleable.

Ekaya, a retailer, has tied up with designer Anupama Dayal to roll out affordable and light weight sarees in unconventional colours. It is considered to be a mature outfit for middle aged and they want to break that stereotype.

Hence, georgette was the fabric of choice instead of silk for the latest collection, which would appeal better to the health conscious urban women, who like to flaunt their toned bodies. Taking the design aspect to another level, Ekaya has also partnered with Playclan, a company that creates quirky graphics designs. They are also launching a collection of trousers and jackets shortly, said Palak Shah, CEO of Ekaya .

The Fashion Design Council of India recently sent a group of 17 young designers to connect with weavers in Varanasi and source fabric for application in Western wear. Innovative design techniques are being tried, like using traditional saree borders on dresses and gowns, said Sunil Sethi, president, FDCI.

Even seasoned designers like Abraham & Thakore, Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Rohit Bal are doing a lot of work with the fabric. Rohit Bal in fact has made use of a wide palate of colours in Banarasi fabric even for menswear in one of his latest shows.

Buying houses and designers are on the government's radar too. The ministry is looking to connect boutiques and fashion houses as they want to promote high-value items as it works better for the weavers too, said Panda of the textile Ministry.

The government is also making attempts to introduce the product to the cyber-world as their market and as a pilot project the ministry has partnered with Flipkart to provide the weavers with logistical and technical support to start selling their products online. If the pilot becomes successful, they will be looking out for more e-commerce partners.

The ministry plans to work with export houses and fashion companies to promote the product and bring it in the mainstream fashion. The government is also working towards improving the status of the weavers in and around Varanasi.

In terms of marketing, the government is considering to rope in a celebrity brand ambassador.

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