Kannur is known for quality handloom, which very few people are aware of and has a rich history and tradition. However, the sector has been facing a crisis due to lack of demand for their products which failed to catch the imagination of the new generation coupled with the lack of new marketing avenues.
Kannur handloom weavers to sell their products, including shirts with traditional designs have found e-commerce to be their new saviour as they aim to exploit the reach of giants such as Amazon and Flipkart.
The district administration has been taking steps to help the handloom sector regain its reputation it once enjoyed by arranging for training of the weavers in creating attractive designs. Seeking a wider and direct market for the weavers, it has also helped them tie up with e-commerce giant Amazon to start with.
The â€œCannloomâ€ brand products being sold on Amazon include menâ€™s formal shirts in cotton and linen and those with traditional designs of Keralaâ€™s popular martial art â€œKalaripayattuâ€ and â€œTheyyamâ€ ( a popular ritual form of worship of North Kerala) and cotton dhotis.
District Collector Mir Muhammed Ali said that they were trying to help the handloom sector regain its reputation and restore Kannurâ€™s rich tradition. â€œCannloomâ€ brand with shirts having â€œKalariâ€ and â€œTheyyamâ€ designs, went online on May 14 this year on Amazon and the response had been encouraging, he said.
Launching the products on a major platform like Amazon was an unexplored territory and a first by a weavers society in the state, Mir Muhammed Ali said. They started by designing attractive handloom bags and as they moved on they wanted to combine looms and lores of the region and thought of taking â€œKalaripayattuâ€ and â€œTheyyamâ€ motifs, which are part of Kannurâ€™s tradition,â€ he said.
Each shirt has a unique tag, which means each product was one of its kind, he said. Presently, 80 weavers and workers of Kuthuparamba Weavers Cooperative Society have gone online with the two products. Also, 16 more weavers societies have completed training at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and would be launching their products soon online, he said.
There are also plans to bring out sarees, towels and bags with unique traditional designs of Kannur, he said. While â€œTheyyamâ€ shirt is pure handwoven linen and priced at Rs. 2,000, the â€œKalariâ€ shirt costs Rs. 1,500 and ordinary handloom shirt Rs. 1,200.
They are in talks with Amazon to reduce their fees which will cut prices by 10-12 percent. Hitherto, the handloom products were either being sold across the counter and proper sales was happening only during the festival seasons of Onam and Christmas.
The new endeavour will help the removal of large middlemen and benefits would go directly to societyâ€™s weavers, he said. According to Kuthuparamba Weavers Cooperative Society secretary Sujesh, they have already earned a revenue of Rs. 15,000 by sale of the products in Amazon so far. There is good demand for the products and weavers have realised with changing times and habits, there is need to incorporate new designs to attract more customers.
There are also plans to sell products through Flipkart and Myntra. Anusree, who is designing the products, said efforts were also on to launch Theyyam-inspired sarees, cotton dhoties with traditional printed borders of Theyyam and Kalari.
They are in the process of doing a complete collection of shirts, dhoties, and sarees of â€œTheyyamâ€ and â€œKalariâ€ designs by Onam,â€ she said adding already work on some 120 shirts had been completed. Initially, the weavers were slightly hesitant with the new ideas, but with enquiries pouring in, things are changing, said the 25-year-old who has passed out of National Institute of Design, Mumbai. There are also plans to incorporate printed shirts with contemporary motifs like wifi symbols to attract more youngsters.
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